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Class __tL_lX9- 



"-^nu 



COIVRIGHT DEPOSm 




RED JACKET. THE SENECA ORATOR. 



SKETCHES 

OF 

EARLY BUFFALO 

AND THE 

NIAGARA REGION. 



SOPHIE C<^ BECKER, 

Principal of the 
North Main Street School. 




BUFFALO, N. Y., 1904. 



\ 






THE LiBSi <v OF 

COIN 3 "^ -s 
One Of>»i :-< -CI iv-x 

r>EC. ^r 1904 

COPY (C^ 



PREFACE. 

It was not the aim of the author to write a complete 
history of Buffalo nor of the Niagara, but to gather 
from all available sources such a series of stories as will 
interest young people and give them a fair idea of what 
took place in this locality in the early days. 

Until a pen more eloquent than mine shall describe 
the toil, the sufferings, the sacrifices and the heroic 
deeds of our forefathers of the Niagara Frontier, this 
book is offered to the children of the schools of Buf- 
falo, in the hope that the rising generation may learn 
to cherish the heritage so dearly won, and may emulate 
the virtues and industry that distinguished the men and 
women of early Buffalo. 

For the facts narrated the author is indebted to the 
books given in the bibliography, to which the student 
is referred for more detailed study. 

For valuable assistance in the preparation of the 
book, thanks are due to Mr. Frank H. Severance of the 
Buffalo Historical Society and to Miss Ada H. Fox of 
Masten Park High School. 

S. C. B. 

Buffalo, December, 1904. 



LA SALLE AND THE GRIFFON. 

Few lives of great men are so rich in romantic in- 
terest, so full of hardships courageously endured, of 
obstacles bravely overcome, and of disappointments 
nobly borne, as was the life of Rene-Robert Cavelier, 
Sieur de la Salle, the French explorer. 

Like many other of his countrymen, he came to 
America to seek his fortune. Having secured from the 
Sulpitians a tract of land on the island of Montreal, he 
set about improving this land, and began to engage in 
the fur trade; but after he had listened to the tales of 
the Indians and of the coureurs de hois, in which they 
told of great tracts of rich lands rriade accessible by 
large rivers, he determined to explore for himself the 
Avaterways and lands of which they spoke. The Great 
Lakes, extending westward — none knew how far — to- 
gether with the mighty Father of Waters, might we'd 
raise in La Salle the hope that this was the way to the 
South Sea, and so to the wealth of the Indies, — a route 
sought by Columbus nearly two centuries before. 

Having no money, La Salle sold his land on the St. 
Lawrence, and fitted out four canoes for purposes of 



LA SALLE AND THE GRIFFON. 

exploration and trade. The Sulpitians, who were 
interested in La Salle's plans, thought this a good op- 
portunity to send missionaries to the North-west Indi- 
ans; the priests Dollier and Galinee, with three canoes, 
therefore,, accompanied La Salle. They embarked in 
the summer of 1669. When the western end of Lake 
Ontario was reached, they fell in with Joliet, who was 
returning from the West, and whose account of his 
travels caused the priests to change their plans. They 
proceeded westward by way of the Lakes, while La 
Salle went in search of the Ohio River. During the 
next two years he discovered the Ohio, explored the 
whole region and, it is thought by some, reached the 
Mississippi River. 

He returned filled with the determination that these 
beautiful, well-watered, fruitful valleys should become 
New France ; that he would open the way for coloniza- 
tion and trade; and that a line of forts, judiciously 
placed along the Lakes and the Mississippi, would 
enable him to keep out both English and Spaniards. 

As a preliminary he secured the friendship of Fron- 
tenac, the governor of Canada, from whom he obtained 
letters of recommendation to Colbert, minister to Louis 
XIV, King of France. Crossing the ocean La Salle 
laid his plans before Colbert, who, regarding them fa- 

10 



LA SALLE AND THE GRIFFON. 

vorably, secured the King's interest in them. In this 
visit (1675) and a subsequent one (1678), La Salle 
obtained from Louis the grant of Fort Frontenac, to- 
gether with large tracts of land, the right to govern 
them, a commission to undertake the discovei*y and 
exploration of the mouth of the Mississippi, and the 
power to erect such forts as should be needed to hold the 
land for France. In consequence of these royal favors, 
he was able to secure large loans when he returned to 
Canada. He brought back with him the Italian Che- 
valier Henri de Tonti, a brave soldier, who, throughout 
La Salle's life, remained his most loyal friend. 

Fort Frontenac, now Kingston, was made the base 
of supplies. Here La Salle fitted out an expedition to 
the Cataract of Niagara, where he proposed to con- 
struct the first of his line of forts. The soldier, La 
Motte de Lussiere, the priest, Father Hennepin, and 
Tonti, were the men selected to aid him in this enter- 
prise. The two former, with sixteen workmen, started 
for the Niagara about the middle of November, 1678. 

We will let Father Hennepin tell the story in his 
own words : 

"On the eighteenth of November, 1678, we took 
leave of the monks at Fort Frontenac and embarked in 
a brigantine of ten tons. The winds and cold being 

11 



LA SALLE AND THE GRIFFON. 

very violent, our men were afraid to embark in so small 
a craft. This obliged the Sieur de la Motte who com- 
manded, to keep constantly along the north shore of 
Lake Frontenac (Ontario) so as to be sheltered from the 
Northwesters which would have driven us on the south- 
ern coast. On the 26th we were compelled to anchor all 
night, two leagues from land with sixty fathoms of 
cable and in evident danger. At last, the wind shifting, 
we reached the upper end of the lake, at an Iroquois vil- 
lage about seventy leagues from Fort Frontenac. We 
bartered some Indian corn with the Iroquois who could 
not sufficiently admire us, and came to see us in our 
brigantine, which for security, we anchored in a river. 
We ran aground three times before we got in, and we 
were obliged to land fourteen of our men and throw our 
ballast overboard to get off. We were obliged to cut 
away with axes the ice that would have locked us 
in the river. As a suitable wind failed us, we could not 
proceed till December 5th, and as we had fifteen leagues 
to make to the Niagara, we succeeded in making only 
ten leagues towards the southern shore, where we 
anchored about three leagues from land, and were 
roughly tossed all night by the stormy weather. On 
the 6th, St. Nicholas' Day, we entered the beautiful 
river Niagara, which no bark had ever yet entered. 

12 



LA SALLE AND THE GRIFFON. 

After prayers of Thanksgiving the Indians of the 
whole little village situated at the mouth of the river, 
with one draught of the seine, took more than three 
hundred whitefish, larger than carp, which are of ex- 
cellent taste, and gave them all to us, ascribing their 
luck in fishing to the arrival of the great wooden canoe. 

On the seventh, we ascended two leagues up the 
river in a bark canoe, to seek a place suitable for build- 
ing, and being unable to go higher up in a canoe nor to 
surmount the violent rapids, we proceeded to explore on 
land three leagues farther, and finding no earth fit to 
cultivate, we slept near a river* which flows from the 
west one league above the great fall of Niagara. There 
was a foot of snow which we removed to build a fire. 
The next day we retraced our steps. On our way we 
saw a great number of deer, and flocks of wild turkeys. 
The carpenters and other men were set to work under 
the direction of the Sieur de la Motte who was never 
able to endure the rigor of such a life of hardship." 

Hennepin next describes how, with great effort, the 
brig was towed to a high rock (Hennepin's rock near 
the old Suspension Bridge — Marshall) where she was 
moored. On the seventeenth a cabin was begun on the 
present site of Lewiston. This was to serve for a maga- 

• Chippewa Creek according to Marshall. 

13 



LA SALLE AND THE GRIFFON. 

zine. The ground was so frozen that boiHng water had 
to be poured upon it in order to drive in the stakes for 
the pahsade. Vast pieces of ice, hurled against the brig 
by the rapid current, broke her cable and threatened to 
carry her away. After three days of hard labor, they 
succeeded in running her ashore. 

Besides the building of a fort on the Niagara, it was 
La Salle's purpose to construct a large ship for the navi- 
gation of the Lakes. Since these operations were to 
take place in the domain of the Senecas, it was high 
time to conciliate them, for, roused by the English, they 
regarded the movements of the French with jealousy 
and suspicion. It was determined, therefore, to send 
an embassy to their chief town. La Motte and Henne- 
pin undertook the task. Accompanied by seven men 
well armed, and carrying upon their backs such pres- 
ents as would be likely to please the savages, they trav- 
eled for five days in a south-easterly direction, through 
the woods and over ground covered with snow. They 
subsisted on parched corn and such game as they could 
secure from Indian hunters, and slept in the open air. 
After traveling thirty-two leagues, they arrived at 
Tegarondies, the great village of the Senecas.* 

Hennepin thus continues : 

* Not far from the present site of Rochester. 

14 



LA SALLE AND THE GRIFFON. 

"As our Frenchmen were well supplied with arms 
and fine clothes, the Indians led us to the cabin of the 
great chief where all the women and children came to 
look at us, . . . The next day forty-two Iroquois 
old men appeared in the council with us, and although 
these Indians are almost all large men, and were merely 
wrapped in robes of beaver or wolf skins, and some in 
black squirrel skins, often with a pipe in the mouth, no 
senator of Venice ever assumed a graver countenance 
or spoke with more weight than the Iroquois sachems." 

La Motte made his appeal, accompanying each ar- 
gument by presents. The wily chiefs accepted the pres- 
ents, but would give no direct answer to his petition. 
Disheartened and weary the Frenchmen retraced their 
steps, arriving at Niagara on the fourteenth of January, 
worn out and almost starved. After La Motte and 
Hennepin had departed, La Salle himself arrived at the 
Seneca village, having come in a barque by way of the 
Genesee river. By his superior address he won over the 
sachems, securing their consent to his plans. He and 
Tonti then pushed on rapidly, arriving at Niagara on 
the twentieth. 

To offset this success came the bad news that a 
barque containing supplies, and the materials for the 
construction of the ship, had been wrecked through the 

15 



LA SALLE AND THE GRIFFON. 

disobedience of the pilot to whom La Salle had en- 
trusted it. Only the anchors and cables were saved. 
The loss was a most serious one ; but quite undaunted 
La Salle immediately began to look about for a suit- 
able ship-yard. He selected the mouth of Cayuga 
Creek, near the present site of the village of La Salle. 

Then began the toilsome task of carrying heavy 
anchors, cordage and other supplies from the boat at 
Lewiston, up the heights, and through the forest, a 
distance of twelve miles around the falls, to this natural 
ship-yard. 

Father Hennepin relates the building of the ship 
thus: 

"On the 22d we went two leagues above the great 
fall of Niagara, where we made a dock for building the 
ship. On the 26th the keel of the ship and some other 
pieces being ready, M. De La Salle sent the master car- 
penter to desire me to drive the first pin. My profession 
obliging me to decline that honor, he did it himself, and 
promised ten Louis d'ors to encourage the carpenters 
and further the work. . . . We employed one of 
two savages of the nation called the Wolf, whom we 
kept for hunting, in building some cabins made of the 
rinds of trees. M. De La Salle having urgent business, 
returned to Fort Frontenac, leaving for our com- 

16 



LA SALLE AND THE GRIFFON. 

mander, one Tonti, an Italian by birth. ... I con- 
ducted M. De La Salle as far as Lake Frontenac. He 
undertook this march of more than eighty leagues by 
land and on foot, with a little bag of roast Indian corn, 
and that even failed him two days' march from the fort, 
where nevertheless he arrived safely, with a dog which 
dragged his little baggage over the ice. 

The greater part of the Iroquois had gone to war 
beyond Lake Conty (Erie) during the construction of 
our bark, but although their absence rendered those 
who remained, less insolent, nevertheless, they did not 
fail to come frequently to our shipyard to manifest their 
displeasure. One, feigning himself drunk, attempted 
to kill our smith, but was vigorously repulsed by him 
with a red-hot iron bar. Some time after, a squaw gave 
us notice that the Indians had resolved to burn our 
ship, and had certainly done it, had we not been upon 
our guard. 

These frequent alarms, fear of running out of pro- 
visions, after the loss of the barque from Fort Fron- 
tenac, and the refusal of the Tsonnontouans Iroquois 
[Senecas] to give us Indian corn on our paying for it, 
discouraged our carpenters, whom a dissolute fellow 
solicited to leave us. . . . The two savages we had 
taken into our service were hunting all this while, 

17 



LA SALLE AND THE GRIFFON. 

and supplied us with wild goats (deer) and other 
beasts, which encouraged our workmen to go on with 
their work more briskly, insomuch that in a short time 
our ship was in readiness to be launched. . . . We 
made all the haste we could to get it afloat, though not 
altogether finished, to prevent the designs of the natives 
who had resolved to burn it. 

The ship was called Le Griffon alluding to the arms 
of Count Frontenac, which have two griffons for sup- 
porters." 

In May, Tonty determined to launch the ship, think- 
ing that both ship and men would be safer anchored in 
some quiet spot in the river. The rigging could be 
completed there as well as on land. The Indians were 
invited to the ceremony, and tried to appear friendly. 
Their amazement was genuine, however, and so was 
the noise they made after having been liberally supplied 
with brandy in honor of the occasion. 

Hennepin says of the ceremony : 

"After having blessed the ship, we launched her. 
We fired three guns and sung Te Deum which was at- 
tended with loud acclamations of joy, of which the Iro- 
quois who were present were partakers. ..." 

By the seventh of August ( 1679) the ship's rigging 
was completed and she was towed to the foot of Squaw 

18 



LA SALLE AND THE GRIFFON. 

Island to await a favorable wind to help float her 
through the rapids into Lake Erie. 

She was a sight to delight the eyes of her builder, as 
she lay at anchor in the river, with the wind in her 
great sails, a griffin* stretching his wings at her prow 
and an eagle soaring above on her pennon. Of warlike 
appearance, too, was she, with seven cannon frowning 
from her portholes, and carrying musketry besides. 
Had she met an enemy she could have made a formid- 
able fight; and La Salle's enemies were particularly 
numerous and spiteful now : they had caused all his 
goods to be seized for debt in the hope of hindering his 
voyage. But, for the time at least, he foiled them, and, 
with his crew of thirty-two men, began the navigation 
of the Great Lakes. 

Hennepin thus describes their departure : 

"The wind, veering to the northeast, the ship being 
well provided, we made all the sail we could and with 
the help of twelve men, who hauled from the shore, 
overcame the rapidity of the current and got up into the 
lake. The stream was so violent that our pilot himself 
despaired of success. 

When it was done we sang Te Deum and discharged 
our cannon and other firearms, in presence of a great 

• A Griffin is a mythical creature, half bird, half lion. 

19 



LA SALLE AND THE GRIFFON. 

many Iroquois who came from a warlike expedition 
against the nation of the meadows, who Hve above four 
hundred leagues from that place. 

The Iroquois and their prisoners were much sur- 
prised to see us in the lake, and cried several times, 
'Gannorom!' to show their admiration." 

It must be remembered that no charts existed for 
navigating these stormy inland seas, and so the ship's 
journey was beset with danger, especially at night. 
Father Galinee had made a map of the northern shore 
of Lake Erie, it is true, but navigation in light canoes 
had not revealed the shoals which a heavy vessel like 
the Griffon might encounter. Her pilot, too, was Luc, 
the one who had wrecked the barque in Lake Ontario, 
and La Salle had good reason to distrust him before the 
end of the journey. 

The first night was moonless and foggy, and the 
Griffon crept forward cautiously, with lead out. Sud- 
denly La Salle declared he heard breakers, and changed 
the course of the ship. Soon they found themselves in 
shoal water, and their hearts beat fast as again they 
swung about; but, the fog lifting, they found that they 
had just escaped being wrecked on Long Point, a 
peninsula on the north shore of Lake Erie. Next day 
they made good time, but another anxious night fol- 

20 



LA SALLE AND THE GRIFFON. 

lowed. After that, however, being now out in the 
widest part of the lake, they felt safe. On August tenth 
they reached the Detroit river. Here Tonty, who had 
preceded the Griffon in order to collect the furs which 
La Salle's traders had secured from the Illinois In- 
dians, awaited the boat and was received on board. 

Sailing up the beautiful Detroit, they found an 
abundance of food along its banks. 

Hennepin thus describes the charming scene : 
"The country between those two lakes is very well 
situated, and the soil very fertile. The banks of the 
strait are vast meadows, and the prospect is terminated 
with some hills covered with vineyards, trees bearing 
good fruit, groves and forests, so well disposed, that 
one would think Nature alone could not have made, 
without the help of Art so charming a prospect. That 
country is stocked with stags, wild-goats [deer] and 
bears, which are good for food; some think they are 
better than our pork. Turkey-cocks and swans are 
there also very common ; and our men brought several 
other beasts and birds, whose names are unknown to 
us, but they are extraordinary relishing, . . . those 
who shall be so happy as to inhabit that noble country, 
cannot but remember with gratitude those who have 
discovered the way, by venturing to sail upon an un- 
known lake for about one hundred leagues." 

21 



LA SALLE AND THE GRIFFON. 

After much sounding they found a channel into 
Lake Huron, towed the boat through as at Niagara, 
and then, on the twenty-third sailed joyfully out on 
the bosom of Lake Huron, singing another Te Deum, 
But their joy was of short duration. Two days later a 
violent storm began, which, on the twenty-sixth became 
so furious that they drifted at the mercy of the gale. 
La Salle, distrusting the pilot, took charge of the 
soundings himself. Finally, even he became alarmed 
and commended his beloved vessel to the care of God. 
Hennepin remarks that everybody fell upon his knees 
to say his prayers and prepare himself for death. 

But the good vessel was near her journey's end, and 
the storm abating, she soon sailed into the harbor of 
Michillimackinac, to the settlement of St. Ignace. The 
Griffon fired a salute, which was immediately answered 
by the Hurons and French on shore. La Salle and his 
crew went ashore in great state to attend a mass, which, 
in gratitude for their deliverance, was celebrated in the 
chapel of the Ottawas. The Griffon, meanwhile, was 
surrounded by swarms of canoes filled with wondering 
redskins, and astonished, envious Frenchmen. 

Setting sail again, they next came to Green Bay, 
where La Salle's traders had collected a valuable cargo 
of furs. La Salle determined at once to send these furs 

22 



LA SALLE AND THE GRIFFON. 

east to satisfy his clamoring creditors. Had he or 
Tonty returned with the vessel, all might have been 
well ; but Tonty was at the Falls of Sainte Marie hunt- 
ing up dishonest traders in La Salle's employ, and La 
Salle himself felt it necessary to remain with those who 
had not as yet made off with his goods, for nearly all 
his men had been made disloyal by the artful plotting of 
his enemies, whose fear was that, should he succeed, he 
would control all the trade which had been theirs so 
long. He decided, therefore, to entrust his precious 
ship and valuable cargo to the pilot Luc, and five able 
sailors; a most unwise proceeding, since Luc had 
proved so careless before. So, saluting her builder 
with a single gun, the Griffon sailed away for Niagara, 
on September eighteenth, carrying besides the furs, the 
anchors and cordage which La Salle had intended for 
another ship to be used in the navigation of the Missis- 
sippi river. 

That was the last that La Salle saw of her. Various 
fates were assigned her. During the first night a fu- 
rious storm came on which raged for five days, and 
Hennepin declared that the Indians saw her go down 
in the storm. Some believed that the savages boarded 
and burned her. La Salle firmly believed that the pilot 

23 



LA SALLE AND THE GRIFFON. 

and crew destroyed her for the sake of the rich plunder 
she contained. 

With the loss of the Griffon, was lost all that La 
Salle had depended upon for success in his plans. 
Though almost broken-hearted, his courage stood even 
this test, and he and Tonty continued their explora- 
tions by canoe and on foot, making both geography 
and history for seven years more. Three years after 
the loss of the Griffon, he discovered the mouth of the 
Mississippi. He took possession of the whole valley 
in the name of Louis XIV. of France, and called it 
Louisiana. 

At the early age of forty-three he was killed by two 
discontented colonists of a settlement which he had 
planted in Texas. Thus died the Sieur, Robert-Rene 
Cavelier de la Salle, the builder of the Griffon, the first 
large ship that attempted the navigation of the Great 
Lakes above Niagara. 



24 



THE PEOPLE OF THE LONG HOUSE. 
( Hodenosaunee. ) 

More than three hundred years ago, before the 
white man had made his home on the banks of the Ni- 
agara, before the Senecas had settled here, the French 
missionaries found a peaceful people living on both 
sides of the river. Their villages, some forty in num- 
ber, also extended along the northern shore of Lake 
Erie. One was located at Buffalo Creek. These 
people the French named the Neutre Nation, because, 
though living with the fierce Hurons to left of them 
and the warlike Iroquois to right of them, they yet 
contrived to live in peace. Their nearest neighbors, 
the Senecas, (a tribe of the Iroquois), named them 
Kah-Kwas. 

Of this people little is known. The missionaries de- 
scribe them as tall, well-formed, fine-looking savages. 
Their clothing was such as the Indians of those days 
usually wore. Their squaws planted beans, squash and 
corn. Their hunters found the deer, wild turkey and 
smaller game plentiful. The streams supplied de- 
licious trout. It is even said that herds of buffalo 

25 



THE PEOPLE OF THE LONG HOUSE. 

roamed along the banks of the creek. Apparently 
there was nothing to prevent their being happy and 
prosperous, and it is said that at the height of their 
glory they were able to send four thousand warriors 
on the warpath. This may account for the fact that 
while the Iroquois and Hurons hated each other 
fiercely and were continually at war, yet in the country 
of the Kah-Kwas they strictly observed the laws of 
neutrality. If a Huron and a Seneca met in the wig- 
wam of a Kah-Kwa, their enmity was apparently for- 
gotten, and both were safe. 

This ideal state of things could not last, for war- 
parties of both nations were continually passing 
through the Kah-Kwa country. Because of some real 
or fancied betrayal the Senecas became incensed 
against the Kah-Kwas, and a war of extermination 
was waged, until but a few were left. These were 
adopted by the Senecas and lived with them in their 
village at Buffalo creek which had fallen into the hands 
of their captors; and after 1651 the Neutre Nation no 
longer existed. 

South of Lake Erie lived a far different people. 
They were the fierce and jealous Eries, or Cat Nation. 
These, too, fell before the savage onslaughts of the 
Senecas in 1655. The following is, in substance, the 



THE PEOPLE OF THE LONG HOUSE. 

legend of their fall as told by the Indians themselves.* 
Having heard that the five nations of central New 
York, the Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga and 
Mohav^fk, had formed a league or confederacy, the 
Eries were filled with rage and dread, for such a union 
could mean only mischief to them. They feared not to 
cope with one nation, but were no match for five. De- 
termined to test the prowess of these foes, they chal- 
lenged the Senecas v^'ith seeming friendliness, to a 
game of ball, to be played for a suitable prize by one 
hundred picked youths of the Senecas against an equal 
number of Eries. 

A council of the League was called at once, and, 
scenting danger, the sachems declined the challenge. 
The Eries, however, repeated it until the young Iro- 
quois fairly begged to be allowed to accept. Permis- 
sion being given, each tribe selected its best players, 
instructing them to seek no occasion for quarrel, and 
to take no offense while in the country of the Eries. 
Accompanied by a wise chief, the chosen band de- 
parted for the scene of action. Tastefully attired, 
carrying only their bats and balls, these athletic young 
men made so fine an appearance as they marched into 
the village of the challengers, that they excited the ad- 
miration even of their enemies. 

* Given in Ketchum's History of Buffalo. 

27 



THE PEOPLE OF THE LONG HOUSE. 

The wager consisted of costly belts of wampum, 
beautiful moccasins, beaver robes and other articles. 
These the Iroquois chief placed upon the ground, and 
each piece was carefully matched by the Eries. 

Then began a hotly contested game. In spite of the 
skill of the challengers, the Iroquois won. They 
wished to depart, but the chief of the Eries declared 
his people unsatisfied unless a foot-race, too, were run. 
The Iroquois consented and were again the victors. 
Then, on invitation of the Kah-Kwas, both parties 
visited them at Eighteen-Mile-Creek, where the Erie 
chief, still dissatisfied, proposed that ten Iroquois 
wrestle with ten of his people, the losers in this contest 
to be brained and scalped by their opponents. Al- 
though displeased at this ferocious challenge, the Iro- 
quois accepted, agreeing among themselves that if vic- 
torious, they would spare their antagonists. The first 
Seneca overcame his enemy, but declined to kill him. 
Furious at being balked the Erie chief quickly dis- 
patched the fallen warrior with his tomahawk. A sec- 
ond and a third was thrown, and as quickly killed by 
the now angry chief. The leader of the Iroquois saw 
trouble brewing in the sullen looks of the Eries and 
ordered his young men to depart. In two hours they 
had returned to Te-osah-wa, the home of the Eries, 

28 



THE PEOPLE OF THE LONG HOUSE. 

and gathering up their trophies, they started for home. 
The Eries now determined to rid themselves of a 
neighbor so dangerous as the Iroquois appeared to be, 
by suddenly attacking each nation in turn, for they 
could not hope to fight the whole Confederacy at once. 
A large war party made ready immediately to fall upon 
the nearest Seneca village, which was near the present 
site of Geneva. They had forgotten the presence 
among them of a Seneca woman who had married into 
the nation, but who, her husband being now dead, con- 
sidered that her loyalty belonged to her own people. 
This woman set off secretly, at night, traveled along 
the Niagara and by morning had reached Lake On- 
tario. Here she took a canoe and paddled to Oswego 
river, where some of her people lived. At the house 
of the chief she gave warning of the Erie invasion. 
Runners were sent at once to the Five Nations, sum- 
moning them to a Council Fire at Onondaga. With- 
out betraying the woman the chief told the story, say- 
ing that it had been revealed to him in a vision. He 
said that only a union of the Five Nations could save 
them. When he had finished speaking, the air was 
rent with war cries and the earth shook with the 
stamping of feet. Waving their war clubs they asked 

to be led against the foe. 

29 



XHE PEOPLE OF THE LONG HOUSE. 

Five thousand warriors, with the bravest chiefs in 
command, took up the Hne of march. One thousand 
went as reserves because they had never been in battle. 
When the war party reached Canandaigua Lake their 
scouts reported that the Eries had already crossed the 
Genesee river. The Eries knew nothing of their be- 
trayal. The two parties met midway between the lake 
and the river. When the Eries saw their foes they 
rushed through an intervening stream and fell upon 
them in fury. A hand-to-hand conflict began. Soon 
the Eries discovered that they were fighting the whole 
Confederacy and that it was a fight to the death for 
them. None asked nor gave quarter. Warclub, toma- 
hawk and scalping knife did deadly work. Suddenly 
the reserves burst out of the wood in the rear of the 
wornout Eries. Seven times had the Eries been driven 
across the stream and recovered their ground, but the 
last time the struggle was ended. Too proud to fly, 
they were mowed down by the war-clubs of the fresh 
warriors. Those who escaped were pursued and killed. 
It was five months before the campaign was ended and 
the victors returned to celebrate their victory. 

It is said that the descendants of the survivors many 
years later came from beyond the Mississippi to avenge 
their nation. A great battle was fought near Buffalo 

30 



THE PEOPLE OF THE LONG HOUSE. 

and the Eries were slain, to a man. Their bodies were 
burned and buried in a mound near the old Indian mis- 
sion Church at West Seneca. 

The Neutres and the Eries having been extermin- 
ated, the Senecas remained in undisputed possession of 
the Niagara and the Lake Shore. At first they came 
to this region simply for purposes of hunting and fish- 
ing; but it was not until 1780, the year after Sullivan 
had destroyed their homes and crops in the Genesee 
valley, that they established themselves permanently on 
Buffalo creek. 

The Senecas belonged to the Iroquois Confederacy, 
which was composed at first of the Five Nations, the 
Senecas, Cayugas, Oneidas, Onondagas and Mohawks. 
Later a sixth nation, the Tuscaroras, was admitted to 
the union. This Confederacy, known as the Hodeno- 
saunee or People of the Long House, was of such im- 
portance that it will be interesting to know why it was 
called the Long House, how it came into existence, and 
something about the manner and customs of the people 
who belonged to it. First, we must understand that an 
Indian long house was from eighty to one hundred and 
fifty feet long, and was constructed of a frame of up- 
right poles covered with bark. It was partitioned into 
open compartments or stalls, each of which accommo- 

31 



THE PEOPLE OF THE LONG HOUSE. 

dated a family. Through the center of the house ran a 
passageway, in which, at regular intervals, fires were 
built, each warming two or four chambers. These 
stalls contained bark shelves or bunks for beds. Un- 
derneath was stored the firewood. Overhead hung 
strings of corn and dried meats. The house was 
lighted by holes in the roof directly over the fires. 
Doors of bark and skins were placed at both ends. 

Authorities differ as to the number of families ac- 
commodated in a long house. If it contained five fires 
it afforded room for ten or more families, according to 
the size of the family. The inhabitants of a house 
usually belonged to the same clan, being related 
through the mothers, not the fathers. Thus the Turtle, 
or the Snipe clan, would live in one house forming one 
great family, having all things in common, and being 
ruled by the older women of that clan. There were 
eight such clans — the Deer, Turtle, Snipe, Bear, Wolf, 
Hawk, Beaver and Heron. 

Each clan selected, or "raised up," a sachem who 
represented that family at the councils of the tribe. 
These chieftainships were handed down in the clan. 
The sachems adjusted the affairs of their nation. If, 
however, the matter concerned the whole League they 
repaired to the great Council House of the Confed- 

32 



THE PEOPLE OF THE LONG HOUSE. 

eracy at Onondaga, where such matters were adjusted. 
It was there that Hiawatha called the first council and 
formed them into a league. 

The legend runs thus : — They were imprisoned un- 
der a mountain near Oswego Falls, when Hiawatha, 
the great deliverer, brought them out into a beautiful 
fertile valley, the Mohawk. But they were not peace- 
able. They fought each other continually, and, taking 
advantage of these enmities, the Algonquins fell upon 
the Onondagas and almost wiped them out. Full of 
dread of this powerful enemy, they called upon the 
Holder of the Heavens (Great Spirit) for aid. He 
sent Hiawatha, who called a great council at Onondaga 
lake. Three days they awaited his coming. Then he 
appeared, riding on the lake in a white canoe. He ad- 
vised them to form a strong union, a brotherhood for 
mutual protection, saying that only so could they with- 
stand all enemies. He assigned to each tribe its place 
in the League and then said farewell. The air was 
filled with music ; he stepped into his canoe, and it was 
borne into the blue heavens, out of their sight. They 
took his advice and formed a most perfect democracy, 
within whose borders peace and good-will reigned. 
They were a band of brothers, all equal in rank, and 
bound to help each other. To all tribes outside the 

33 



THE PEOPLE OF THE LONG HOUSE. 

brotherhood they became a terror, for in this union 
there was strength. 

And so they called themselves the People of the 
Long House, to signify that they were one large fam- 
ily, who occupied a long house reaching from the 
Cjcnesee river to the Hudson; each tribe gathering 
about its own council fire. The Mohawks were the 
keepers of the eastern door, the Senecas of the western. 
The Confederacy was fortunately situated, occupying 
a broad belt of fertile lands in the central part of New 
York state, with waterways reaching in all directions. 
If the New England tribes incurred their displeasure, 
the Hudson quickly carried their war-parties into the 
enemy's country. If it was necessary to show the Il- 
linois Indians that the Iroquois were their masters, 
then the Ohio furnished a rapid descent to the villages 
of the people to be punished. The Adirondacks and 
Algonquins soon learned to dread their ascent of Lake 
Champlain, and the Hurons watched the Niagara port- 
age with uneasiness. The Five Nations were irre- 
sistible. In course of time they subjugated or anni- 
hilated all the tribes in their vicinity, and their power 
extended from the Great Lakes to the Carolinas and 
from New England to the Mississippi river. This su- 

34 



THE PEOPLE OF THE LONG HOUSE. 

periority they owed to their union, which was without 
precedent among savage tribes. 

The Great Council Fire was always at Onondaga. 
In any matter that concerned the League as a whole, 
the sachems of each nation (there were about fifty in 
all), repaired to the Onondaga Council House. To a 
peace council they carried fagots of white cedar ; to a 
v;ar council a bundle of red cedar fagots was taken. 
Arriving at the grove, they deposited their fagots in a 
circle upon the ground. These were lighted by the 
presiding Onondaga sachem, and constituted the Coun- 
cil Fire. Seated in a circle about this fire, each in turn 
took three whiffs of the calumet or peace-pipe, in token 
of thanksgiving for life, for food, and for sunlight. 
After these opening ceremonies came the speeches and 
deliberations. 

Behind each sachem stood a war chief who occupied 
a subordinate position in times of peace; but in war 
became the leader. The older women of the League 
also had a final word to say in case of war, or in the 
settlement of any question that involved them or their 
children, and were listened to with respect. The two 
great war chiefs always were chosen from the Senecas 
because this tribe guarded the Western Door, or point 
of attack, and therefore were the first to take the war- 
path. 

35 



THE PEOPIvE OF THE LONG HOUSE. 

The councils were conducted with great dignity, and 
many of the sachems were noted for their eloquence. 
Such were Logan, Red Jacket, Cornplanter and Far- 
mer's Brother. 

In a speech made by Farmer's Brother in 1798 
occurs the following passage : 

"Brothers — The whirlwind (Revolution) was so 
directed by the Great Spirit above, as to throw into our 
arms two of your infant children, Horatio Jones and 
Jasper Parrish. We adopted them and made them our 
children. We nourished and loved them. They lived 
with us many years. At length the Great Spirit spoke 
to the whirlwind and it zvas still. A clear and uninter- 
rupted sky appeared. The path of peace was opened, 
and the chain of friendship was once more made bright. 
Then these adopted children left us to seek their rela- 
tions." 

Notice the beauty of the metaphor employed by Far- 
mer's Brother. 

The Five Nations also showed their superiority to 
other savages in that they were not a mere hunting 
people but an agricultural people as well. Their women 
raised very superior crops of tobacco, corn, squash, 
beans and pumpkins. When Sullivan raided their 
towns they had planted large orchards of fruit trees. 



THE PEOPLE OF THE LONG HOUSE. 

Corn was their chief article of diet. This was 
charred or dried for winter use. When preparing bread 
the squaw first boiled the corn in a lye made of ashes 
and water, thus removing the hull. She washed it, 
placed it in a stone mortar and with a pestle pounded it 
into fine meal. This she sifted in a basket sieve. Some- 
times she mixed the meal with maple sugar, forming a 
sweet cake which was boiled in water ; but usually the 
maple sugar was omitted. 

There is a beautiful myth of the Iroquois called 
"The Three Sisters." According to this myth the 
Great Spirit loved his red children, and for their sub- 
sistence gave them the corn, bean and squash. That 
these might grow and never fail them, he placed each 
under the care of a guardian spirit. The Spirit of the 
Corn, the Spirit of the Squash, and the Spirit of the 
Bean were three beautiful sisters who made their home 
in the green fields where these vegetables grew; they 
loved to live together, often in the same field, the bean 
twined around the corn and the squash creeping along 
the ground. Each of the sisters was dressed in the 
leaves of the plant which she guarded. In the autumn 
when the corn was ripe, the grateful Indians celebrated 
the Corn Festival, at which public thanksgiving was 
made to the three sisters for the bountiful harvest. The 

37 



THE PEOPLE OF THE LONG HOUSE. 

festival ended with a feast of succotash made of corn, 
beans and squashes, of which the Indians are very fond. 

The Indians likewise believed that the tobacco has 
a guardian spirit. The knowledge of this plant was 
given to the Iroquois so that they might send their 
prayers up to the Great Spirit in the rising smoke. No 
council was held without burning this incense in 
thanksgiving for life, food and light. 

Besides her ability as a farmer, the Indian woman 
had no small degree of skill and taste in the fashion- 
ing of garments and household utensils. Nothing more 
beautiful nor perfect in the way of footgear can be 
found than a well-made pair of moccasins, artistically 
beaded and colored. The shoe is made of a single piece 
of deerskin, sewed with a needle made of the small 
bone taken from the ankle of the deer, and deer sinews 
are used for thread. Their fine workmanship was also 
shown in belts woven from the fibres of the slippery elm 
bark, adorned with colored porcupine quills; also in 
whole suits of soft buckskin tastefully beaded and orna- 
mented. 

Barrels, dishes, trays, etc., made of the bark of trees, 
served all the purposes of a modern pantry full of 
dishes. Pottery was made from various clays, and 
some of the bowls, dishes and pipes that have been 

38 



THE PEOPLE OF THE LONG HOUSE. 

preserved are distinctly artistic in design. (See Buf- 
falo Historical Collection.) 

The Indians understood the art of making baskets. 
This art is practiced to-day by Indian women and to 
them we owe our knowledge of the craft. Splints, 
flags and sweet grass are among the materials used. 
Many are the designs employed and much skill is 
shown in the coloring. 

Another Indian invention which is still useful is 
the snow-shoe. It is made of a bent hickory frame and 
woven across with deer sinew. Runners frequently 
covered fifty miles a day with these "seven-league 
boots." 

The Indian had no metal tools with which to work 
until the white man supplied them. Trees were cut 
down by girdling them with fire near the ground. They 
were cut into logs and hollowed out with fire. Canoes 
were made of the inner bark of birch, elm or hickory ; 
and were skilfully constructed so as to be both light 
and waterproof. Arrow-heads, knives and chisels were 
chipped from flint or chert. Hatchets, mortars and 
mallets were made of stone firmly bound to wooden 
handles. "4 

Instead of written documents as evidence of records, 

treaties, laws, and messages of peace or war, strings 

89 



THE PEOPLE OF THE LONG HOUSE. 

and belts of wampum were used. Wampum consisted 
of purple- and white beads made from the conch shell. 
They were one-fourth inch long and strung on sinew 
in yard lengths, or woven into belts containing designs 
significant of the occasion for which they were given. 
The white wampum was used principally for religious 
purposes, the purple for political purposes. No prom- 
ise or agreement between nations was considered bind- 
ing unless it had been "talked into" a belt of wampum. 
The Keeper of the Wampum had a fine memory and 
could take down any belt in the Council House and 
recite the various articles of agreement which it orig- 
inally represented. Morgan* says distinctly that wam- 
pum was not used as money. It was sometimes given 
as a valuable present to appease relatives when a mem- 
ber of the family had been killed. Six strings of white 
wampum was the price of a life. If accepted by the 
family the murderer went free. 

t The People of the Long House believed that rever- 
ence for the old and feeble, care of orphans, hospitality 
to strangers and obedience to parents, were acceptable 
to the Great Spirit and brought reward to the observer 
of these virtues. They were therefore carefully prac- 
ticed and taught to the children who were also taught 
to tell the truth. A "forked" tongue was despised 

* Sec Leagve of the Iroquois. 

40 



THE PEOPLE OF THE LONG HOUSE. 

among- them. In the division of spoils they were ex- 
ceedingly fair ; even a chief received no more than the 
least child among them. 

Captives taken in battle, were often adopted by 
families that had lost a member. They received all the 
rights and privileges of the dead one, even to the enjoy- 
ment of his name and title. If a father's place were 
thus filled, the adopted was called father by the chil- 
dren, and was so regarded by all the household. 

Indian hospitality was unstinted. If several strang- 
ers came to a long house, one compartment was cleaned 
and put at their disposal as long as they chose to stay. 
Food was furnished freely. It was their custom to set 
food before every visitor who happened in, even if he 

t There is a legend which tells the origin of Indian hospitality. It runs thus:— 
A weary old man was once seen approaching an Indian village. He appeared very 
ill and was covered with sores. The Indians shunned him, therefore, and when he 
passed from wigwam to wigwam, women covered their children's faces that they might 
not take the disease. No one bade him enter. He passed on to other villages, but no- 
where was there a welcome for him. At last, when quite worn out and almost hopeless, 
he approached a wigwam. To his surprise the face of the woman who came to greet 
him lighted up with pity, and she said : 

"Welcome, my brother ! You are a stranger and ill. What can I do for you ?" 
She made him comfortable upon a couch of soft furs, and, at his bidding, gathered 
herbs in the forest, prepared them according to his directions, and cured his disease. 
He caused himself to be afflicted with all the diseases in turn, which the evil spirits send 
to red men, and taught her how to cure them all. In this way she and her descendants 
forever, were given the knowledge of medicine and became more highly honored than 
chiefs or sachems. After the old man had taught his hostess all the arts of healing, he 
caused himself to fall ill of a fatal disease and so returned to the Great Spirit who had 
sent him. 

From that time no stranger, however ill or repulsive he might appear, was ever 
turned away from an Indian's door. They feared that in refusing hospitality they might 
be turning away "good medicine. "—[Abstracts from Canfield's Iroquois Legends.] 

41 



THE PEOPLE OF THE LONG HOUSE. 

had just dined, and it was a breach of politeness not to 
accept the food offered. 

In the matter of names they were very particular. 
Names were not given at random. Names belonging 
to one clan or tribe could not be used by others. When 
a baby was to be named the chief furnished to the 
mother a list of children's names which were not then 
in use, and she made her choice. When the youth 
grew to manhood another name was selected in the 
same manner. If later he became a chief, the name of 
some dead chief was conferred upon him. Thus, Red 
Jacket was called Otetiani in youth ; when he became 
a sachem his name was changed to Sagoyewatha. He 
subsequently gave his former name to Thomas Morris 
when he was adopted into the tribe. 

Many references to the graves of their fathers are 
made by Indian orators, showing that the Red Men 
reverenced the bones of their dead. It was believed 
that the dead, if left unburied, could not reach the 
abode of the spirits, but wandered about unhappily. 
Therefore those killed in battle were, if possible, care- 
fully removed and buried. The journey to the "Happy 
Hunting Grounds" was thought to be long; conse- 
quently the dead warrior would need his bow and ar- 
rows to kill game on the way; also his pipe and to- 

42 



THE PEOPLE OF THE LONG HOUSE. 

bacco to solace him at evening, and his dog- must be 
killed to keep him company. Parched corn, too, was 
often placed upon the scaffolding upon which the dead 
were laid, or buried with them in the grave. When 
the warrior reached the abode of the Great Spirit, how- 
ever, he no longer needed to hunt or work. Abundance 
was everywhere and he could amuse himself or rest, as 
he chose. 

The Indian was very grateful to the Great Spirit 
for all he received. According to Morgan,* the Iro- 
quois observed six thanksgiving festivals. When the 
sap began to flow the Maple Festival was celebrated. 
At the Planting Festival the Great Spirit was asked to 
bless the seed. Besides these, there were the Straw- 
berry Festival, the Green Corn Festival, the Harvest 
Festival and the New Year's Festival. This last was 
celebrated in February and was the greatest of the 
Indian year. On that occasion a white dog was sacri- 
ficed to the Great Spirit, sins were confessed and a de- 
termination to "turn over a new leaf" was made. The 
festival lasted seven days. One of the ceremonies was 
to visit one's neighbor and to stir up with a shovel the 
ashes upon his hearth. 

* League of the Iroquois. 

43 



THE PEOPLE OF THE LONG HOUSE. 

No Christian prayer could be more beautiful in 
phraseolog-y than the following- which was offered by 
the Iroquois at their Planting- Festival : 

"Great Spirit who dwellest alone, listen now to the 
words of thy people here assembled. The smoke of 
our offering arises [throws tobacco on the fire. As the 
smoke ascends he prays.] Give kind attention to our 
words as they arise to Thee in the smoke. We thank 
Thee for the return of the planting season. Give to us 
a good season that bur crops may be plentiful. 

Continue to listen for the smoke yet rises. [Throws 
on more tobacco.] Preserve us from all pestilential 
diseases. Give strength to us that we may not fall. 
Preserve our old men among us and protect the young. 
Help us to celebrate with feeling the ceremonies of this 
season. Guide the minds of thy people that they may 
remember Thee in all their actions. Na-ho."* 

In all festivals dancing played a large part. The 
Iroquois had dances for every occasion. Morgan gives 
a list of thirty-two, among which were the Feather 
dance, the Buffalo dance, Scalp dance, False Face 
dance. Thanksgiving dance, etc. The women had a 
special dance for the dead, accompanied by wailing. 
Some of the dances were accompanied by beating the 

* Given by^Morgon in the League of the Iroquois. 

44 



THE PEOPLE OF THE LONG HOUSE. 

drum or tom-tom, others by shaking rattles or singing 
songs. ^.^ 

Chief among the dances was the War Dance thus 
described by Colden* : 

"The night before they set out on the warpath, they 
make a grand feast ; to this all the noted warriors of 
the nation are invited ; and here they have their War 
Dance, to the beat of a kind of a kettle-drum. The 
warriors are seated in two rows in the house, and each 
rises up in his turn, and sings the great acts he has 
himself performed, and the deeds of his ancestors; and 
this is always accompanied with a kind of a dance, or 
rather action, representing the manner in which they 
were performed ; from time to time, all present join in 
a chorus, applauding every notable act. They exag- 
gerate the injuries they have at any time received from 
their enemies, and extol the glory which any of their 
ancestors have gained by their bravery and courage; 
so that they work up their spirits to a high degree of 
warlike enthusiasm. . . . They come to these dances 
with their faces painted in a frightful manner to make 
themselves terrible to their enemies; and in this man- 
ner the night is spent. Next day they march out with 
much formality, dressed in their finest apparel, and, in 
their march, observe a profound silence. . . . 

* History of the Five Nations, 

45 



THE PEOPLE OF THE LONG HOUSE. 

After the expedition is over, they send to inform 
their friends of their return that they may be prepared 
to give them a solemn reception, suited to the success 
they have had." 

Games, too, were a part of all their festivals. Mor- 
gan describes a number of these, chief among which is 
the game of ball. This game, which was always hotly 
contested, was usually played clan against clan, or na- 
tion against nation ; and betting was a regular feature, 
for Indians are great gamblers. The players were 
naked except for the breechclout. Bat and ball were 
made of deerskin. Each side had a wicket or gate. 
The object of the game was to send the ball through 
this wicket, it being touched only with the bat. 

The deer-button and the peach stone game some- 
what resembled our game of dice. The former game 
was played with eight buttons blackened on one side, 
the latter with six peach stones, polished and similarly 
blackened. Success depended on the number of the 
same color that turned up at each toss. The javelin 
game was one of skill. Its object was to throw a jave- 
lin at a rolling hoop. The javelins that failed to strike 
the hoop were forfeited. Success belonged to the side 

that won all the javelins. Races and archery, throw- 

46 



THE PEOPLE OF THE LONG HOUSE. 

ing the tomahawk and other games of skill and endur- 
ance were favorites. 

We need not dwell upon the Indian's scorn of any- 
thing resembling cowardice. E^'en under the most 
cruel torture he would chant his death song reciting 
his valorous deeds, and taunting his tormentors with 
past defeats, and with their inability to hurt him. 

Such was the life of the celebrated Confederacy of 
the Five Nations, until their downfall, which may be 
traced to the intercolonial wars, when the Iroquois al- 
lied themselves first with one side, and then with the 
other. During the French and Indian wars, division 
of interests caused the Iroquois to abandon their for- 
mer policy of united action. The Mohawks were 
firmly bound to Sir "William Johnson and the English 
cause by ties of relationship. The Senecas and others 
were as firmly attached to the French ; and so the Long 
House, being divided against itself, finally fell. In the 
Revolution the Johnson family secured four of the Six 
Nations to the English cause. Only the Oneidas and 
Tuscaroras tried to remain neutral. The reward of 
the Iroquois was small. No provision was made for 
his Indian allies by the English King when the treaty 
of peace as signed, and the United States dealt with 
them as with any conquered people. Their lands were 

47 



THE PEOPLE OF THE LONG HOUSE. 

confiscated, leaving them only small reservations where 
before they had owned a vast domain. It is true that 
the government tried to deal fairly by them, making 
them some return for these lands, but with their lands 
gone, their dignity as a people departed. The Long 
House was no more. Their Council Fire was extin- 
guished. The arts and also the vices of civilization 
were thrust upon them ; whatever was left of manhood 
and virtue was destroyed by the cursed liquor traffic. 

The Senecas occupied the reservation of West Sen- 
eca on Buffalo Creek until 1844, when they scattered, 
some going to Kansas and others to their kindred on 
the Cattaraugus and Alleghany reservations ; and their 
ancient seats knew them no more. 

No watchman guards the Western Door to the Long 
House now, unless it be the spirit of the "Last of the 
Senecas," to whose memory the beautiful monument 
at Forest Lawn is raised. 



48 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

In an Indian tepee, at the foot of Seneca lake, was 
born, about the year 1750, the Httle Indian baby who 
afterward became the great orator known as Red 
Jacket. His people belonged to the Senecas, the most 
western of the celebrated Five Nations of New York. 

His first name was 0-te-tiani, which means Always 
Ready; but, as is the Indian custom, another name was 
given to him later when he became a chief. 

The favorite pastime of the little Indian was hunt- 
ing, and, in following game, he became a great runner; 
indeed he could outstrip all his companions when hunt- 
ing deer or antelope. This accomplishment soon 
brought him into notice, for the Indians employed 
swift runners to carry messages from tribe to tribe, 
and Otetiani became a runner for his tribe. Later, 
when the Revolution began, the British officers noticed 
his swiftness and intelligence and employed him as 
their messenger. In payment for his services they gave 
him an embroidered red jacket which pleased him im- 
mensely. So vain was he of the garment, that there- 
after so long as he remained in their service, the officers 

49 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

kept him in red coats, and, in time, he became known 
as Red Jacket, a name which gave him much satisfac- 
tion. 

Red Jacket was a great runner, a great hunter, a 
great speaker, but never a great fighter. There seemed 
to be no warrior spirit in him, and he never earned the 
right to wear the eagle plume. His enemies often 
called him a coward. To prove that he was not brave. 
Brant, the celebrated Mohawk chief, who hated him 
much, loved to tell a story about him to the effect that 
during the Revolution Red Jacket had, on one occa- 
sion, made a great speech urging the young warriors 
to fight, declaring that he himself would lead them and 
be found in the thickest of the fight, but when the 
battle began Red Jacket was nowhere to be seen. 
While the others were absent fighting, he was skinning 
a cow which he had stolen. Red Jacket indignantly 
denied the story, and was much incensed at the nick- 
name "Cow-Killer," which Brant fastened upon him. 
The enmity between the two may have grown out of 
the desire of each to lead. Brant was the leader of 
those Iroquois who had become allies of the British. 
He was well-educated, and the Five Nations looked up 
to him because, while he could read and write, and un- 
derstood the white man's ways, yet he was a brave war- 

60 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

rior, true to his people. Red Jacket, on the other hand, 
had no education ; but he had a fine, far-seeing mind 
and greater powers of eloquence than Brant. Natur- 
ally, there was jealousy between the two chiefs, and 
Brant made the most of the cow story. But Red 
Jacket was once called a coward by no less a person 
than Cornplanter, one of the greatest, bravest, and 
wisest of the Seneca war chiefs. It was when General 
Sullivan made his great raid into the 'Xong House" 
and Cornplanter tried to rally the Indians at Canan- 
daigua Lake, to make a stand against Sullivan before 
he should reach and lay waste the Seneca country, that 
Red Jacket, learning of the defeat of a force under 
Brant, refused to stay, and, gathering his warriors, be- 
gan a retreat. Cornplanter was furious. "Leave that 
man, he is a coward; your children will be cowards!" 
he shouted to Red Jacket's squaw. 

During this raid, Red Jacket secretly sent messen- 
gers to the American camp to sue for peace. Brant, 
becoming aware of it, had them waylaid and killed. 
Had the Indians made peace at this time, they would 
have saved their homes and crops from destruction, and 
themselves from starvation. If Red Jacket foresaw 
the awful result of the war, and tried to prevent it, he 
was morally brave in opposing the war-party and its 

51 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

powerful chief ; but to the Indian such conduct would 
seem cowardly, since from infancy, he is taught to 
taunt his enemies, and never to sue for peace. 

Patrick Henry served his country better with tongue 
and pen than with the sword, and possibly Red Jacket 
felt that he, likewise, could serve his people better with 
his great eloquence than he could with tomahawk 
and scalping knife. He often declared that he was 
born an orator, not a warrior. That he had great na- 
tural ability no one denies, but he studied hard to im- 
prove his gifts. Once, while still a boy, he heard a 
speech by Logan, the great Cayuga orator; the elo- 
quence of that famous speaker so impressed him that 
he often "played Logan" when alone in the woods. An 
interpreter, who knew Red Jacket in later life, said that 
when about to deliver a speech in council, he would 
retire to some secluded spot and sit down upon the 
ground with bundles of twigs before him. These he 
would arrange in piles, meanwhile reciting his speech. 
Apparently each twig stood for some argument or 
point which he wished to make. When the time to 
speak came, he would arise slowly, draw his blanket 
about him as a Roman his toga, survey his audience 
in dignified silence, and when he had their full atten- 
tion he would begin his speech in a slow, impressive 

52 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

manner. He had a pleasing- voice, a penetrating 
glance, and a very expressive face and bearing. He 
could move his audience to tears or make them frantic 
with rage. When angry, his eyes darted fire; when 
scornful of his opponent, a sarcastic smile played over 
his face and he said cutting things. 

He had an intense love for his people and their cus- 
toms. When he saw, with increasing uneasiness, the 
growing power of the white men and the increasing 
helplessness of his own people, he exerted all his elo- 
quence to defend the rights of the red men and to keep 
them from yielding up their lands. 

His hate and distrust of white peoples ways 
prompted him to refuse to use the English language, 
although he understood and could speak it. To show 
his contempt for our tongue he would, in a stately 
manner, require an interpreter to tell him what had 
been said and to translate his replies. Even after his 
people had removed to Buffalo Creek and adopted 
the customs of civilization he held out, refusing to 
use either table or chair in his cabin. He used to sit 
in state upon a bearskin spread upon the floor. 

Red Jacket did not believe in education for the 
Indian. A young Seneca who had been at school re- 
turned to his tribe. 

53 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

"What have we here?" was Red Jacket's greeting. 

"You are neither a white man nor an Indian ; then 
tell us what you are !" 

While he affected to despise white people, he 
wanted them to admire his greatness and importance. 
Sometimes his vanity caused him to stoop to trickery 
to gain influence. It was partly by trickery that he 
became a chief. He had felt for a long time that he 
was not properly appreciated by his people; that they 
ought to have made him a sachem or peace chief. In- 
dians believe that a vivid dream is a message from the 
Great Spirit and must not be disregarded, so Red 
Jacket contrived to dream that he was made a sachem, 
and promptly informed his people of the fact. They 
doubted. The dream was repeated three times, still 
they doubted. Just then the small-pox broke out 
among them, with its usual fatality to the Indian. 

"See," said Red Jacket, "the Great Spirit is dis- 
pleased with your disobedience." 

Apparently the poor people were persuaded, for he 
was made a sachem and given the name Sa-go-ye- 
wat-ha, which is the name of the spirit that induces 
wakefulness at night, and means, "he keeps them 
awake." He earned the right to this name, for his 
eloquence gave his people no rest while he lived. 

54 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

The earliest mention that historians make of Red 
Jacket as an orator is found in the account of the 
treaty of Fort Stanwix, in 1784. Let me briefly re- 
hearse the events that led up to this treaty. When 
the Revolution began the colonists called a council of 
the Six Nations of New York known as the Iroquois, 
At this council the peacepii>e was smoked and the In- 
dians made a treaty not to fight on either side. They 
kept this treaty for a year. The British, finding that 
the colonists were not as easily subdued as they had 
expected, determined to call the Iroquois to their aid 
and convened a council for this purpose. To the cred- 
it of the chiefs it must be said that at first they re- 
fused to break the promise made to the colonists ; but 
the British persuaded them that it would not be wrong 
to break faith with rebels who had themselves broken 
faith with their king. This argument was reinforced 
by promises of plunder, offers of reward for scalps, and 
of unlimited rum, guns and money. The Indians re- 

NoTB— A story is told of a Mohawk Chief, Hendiick by name, who vjsited Sir 
William Johnson one day, just as a case of gold-laced uniforms received from England, 
was being opened. Hendrick left the room, but soon returned and gravely remarked 
that he had dreamed that Sir William gave him one of the uniforms. Knowing the 
Indian superstition Sir William dared not refuse and promptly handed over the clothes. 
He had no mind, however, to let such a thing happen again, therefore, a few days later, 
on meeting Hendrick iu his gorgeous uniform, he, with great gravity, remarked that he 
had dreamed that Hendrick had given him a certain tract containing 500 acres of valuable 
land, situated in the Mohawk valley. 

Hendrick looked his astonishment, hesitated, but finally said, "It is yours, but f 
will never dream with you again." 

55 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

turned from the council laden with gifts and began at 
once to harass the whites in the hope of getting scalps 
to sell to the British. They then committed those 
shocking massacres in Cherry and Wyoming valleys 
which so aroused the wrath of General Washington 
that he sent General Sullivan against them, with or- 
ders to punish them so severely that they would com- 
mit no more crimes. This was done so thoroughly 
that thereafter Washington was known among the In- 
dians as the "Town-Destroyer." 

After the war was ended, the Indians had to be 
dealt with. They were still under the influence of the 
British stationed at Fort Niagara and other frontier 
posts, who encouraged them in all manner of lawless- 
ness. It was a question whether all the Iroquois 
should not be expelled from the state and be made t3 
follow the Mohawks, who had cast in their lot with 
the British and settled in Canada. But General Wash- 
ington opix)sed this plan, and proposed instead that a 
treaty of peace be made with them and that an effort 
to civilize them follow. In pursuance of this plan 
they were summoned to a council held at Fort Stan- 
wix (Rome, N. Y.). The protection of the United 
States was offered them on condition that they give 
up all white prisoners still held in captivity, and sur- 

56 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

render the larg-e territory about the Niagara and Ohio 
rivers, which hitherto they had claimed. 

General Lafayette, who was present at the council, 
afterward (1825) recalled the vehement opposition to 
the treaty of one very young- orator, who excited his 
people so violently by his denunciations of a treaty 
which would deprive them of their ancient seats, their 
hunting grounds and the graves of their fathers, that 
the United States Commissioners almost despaired of 
reaching any agreement with them. It is thought by 
some historians that the orator on this occasion was 
Red Jacket. Cornplanter acted as peace-maker. He 
convinced his people that, as a conquered nation, they 
must submit to the terms made by their conquerors. 
The treaty was signed, but it furnished Red Jacket a 
text for many bitter speeches later ; while Cornplanter 
suffered much at the hands of his people for having 
advised submission. So severely was he blamed by 
the Chippewas and Half Town's people that he felt 
obliged to make an effort for the return of their lands. 
In December of 1790, accompanied by Half Town and 
Great Tree, he went to Philadelphia to see General 
Washington and make a personal appeal. In his 
speech Cornplanter referred to the fact that his life 
had been threatened because he had given up these 
lands. 

57 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

He addressed himself "To the Great Councillor of 
the Thirteen Fires" in these words : 

"Father, we will not conceal from you that the 
Great Spirit and not man, has preserved the Corn- 
planter from the hands of his own nation. The Chip- 
pewas and all the nations that lived on those (Ohio) 
lands westward call to us and ask, 'Brothers of our 
fathers! where is the place which you have reserved 
for us to lie down upon?* He is silent, for he has 
nothing- to answer. When the sun goes down he opens 
his heart to the Great Spirit and earlier than that sun 
api>ears again upon the hills, he gives thanks for his 
protection during the night ; for he feels that among 
men, become desperate by their danger, it is God only 
that can preserve him." 

For the small tract near Pennsylvania claimed by 
Half Town and his people he made this pathetic ap- 
peal : 

"They (Half Town's people) grew out of that 
land, and their fathers grew out of it, and they can- 
not be persuaded to part with it. It is a very little 
piece. We therefore entreat you to restore to us this 
little piece !" His appeals were fruitless. 

As soon as the fertility of the Genesee lands be- 
came known, many land companies sprang into ex- 

58 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

istence for the purpose of securing from the Indians 
a title to their lands or a long lease. The rival com- 
panies finally united their interests, making Oliver 
Phelps and Nathaniel Gorham their agents. New 
York and Massachusetts claimed this tract, and in 
1786 New York gave to Massachusetts the pre-emp- 
tive right to it.* Massachusetts sold the right to the 
Phelps and Gorham Company for one million dollars. 
The land had yet to be purchased from the Indians, 
and for this purpose they were summoned to a council 
at Buffalo Creek in July of 1788. The Indians were 
willing to sell part of their land and parted with over 
two and one-half million acres for five thousand dol- 
lars, one-half in cash, one-half in goods, and an annual 
rental of five hundred dollars forever. At this council 
were present Brant the Mohawk Chief, Farmer's 
Brother, Cornplanter, Old King, Old Smoke, Red 
Jacket, and the missionary and friend of the Indians, 
Rev. Samuel Kirkland. Several British officers were 
present too, among whom was Colonel Butler, to 
whom the Indians left the fixing of the price. Phelps 
paid him well for the service. The council was con- 
ducted peaceably and the Indians seemed satisfied at 
the time, but later they made bitter complaints of 

* Right to purchase from the Indians. 

59 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

fraud. Investigation showed, however, that they had 
entered into the contract with open eyes. 

Phelps and Gorham found themselves unable to 
meet the payments to Massachusetts, hence the land 
was again sold to Robert Morris, the financier of the 
Revolution, He in turn sold the western section to 
the Holland Land Company. The Indian title to this 
land was not extinguished until 1797. 

The Western Indians had not been included in the 
treaty of Fort Stanwix, and, instigated by the British 
at Detroit, Niagara and other frontier posts, had not 
ceased their hostilities at the close of the war. De- 
termined to make the Ohio the boundary to the white 
man's encroachments, they summoned the Iroquois to 
help them exterminate the whites. The Iroquois sym- 
pathized deeply with them and it needed little to make 
them openly join in the war. Two Senecas were killed 
by white men about this time (1790) and the excite- 
ment of the Indians became so great that the govern- 
ment thought it wise to convene a council to pacify 
them and prevent an outbreak. Colonel Pickering 
called the council at Tioga Point in 1790. Great ex- 
citement prevailed when the council opened, but Col- 
onel Pickering, understanding the Indian nature, made 
a speech in which he mourned with them over their 

60 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

loss, soothed their grief, and figuratively wiped away 
their tears, promising that the murderers should be 
punished. Red Jacket replied, saying that the chain 
of friendship between the Five Nations and the 
Thirteen Fires (states) must be brightened; that it 
contained two rusty spots: one, the murder of their 
brothers, the other, the Phelps and Gorham purchase, 
which he said was a lease not a sale, and that the In- 
dians had been defrauded. 

In his reply Colonel Pickering tactfully proceeded 
to polish up the chain of friendship. He then fed the 
Indians, distributed some presents among them and 
sent them home happy and contented, for the time 
being. 

It was at this council that Thomas Morris, the 
son of Robert Morris, was adopted by the Senecas. 
He had lived among them long enough to gain their 
affection and they gladly received him into their tribe. 
Red Jacket, whose special friend he was, conferred 
upon him his own former name Otetiani. The scene 
is graphically described by Stone. * 

Sixteen hundred Indians were present at the cere- 
mony. They sat about the council fire. Fish Carrier, 
an old Cayuga chief, presided. He made a speech to 
the moon, throwing tobacco into the fire as incense. 

• See Stone's Red Jacket. 

61 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

All the Indians threw themselves upon the earth and 
groaned. Then the young- braves arose and danced 
about a torture stake, throwing their tomahawks at 
it, while singing of their brave deeds. They were all 
naked, their backs painted red and white. So earnest 
did they become in their boasts that the evening al- 
most ended in a fight. Fish Carrier reproved the 
young men and sent them home. 

In April of the next year another council fire was 
built at Buffalo Creek, Colonel Proctor was sent to 
request the Senecas to send Cornplanter with a dele- 
gation to the western tribes to help the government 
make peace with them. Red Jacket, who had received 
his instructions from the British at Fort Niagara, con- 
sumed much time in objecting to the mission. He 
objected first to the great distance, then to the danger 
of the undertaking, and at last said that Cornplanter 
was still tired from his Philadelphia journey, and was 
needed at home to keep the young warriors in order. 
When Colonel Proctor finally lost patience and told 
the Indians that he would report their unfriendliness 
at Philadelphia the women took matters into their own 
hands and promised that the delegation would be sent. 
Very unwillingly Red Jacket named the delegates, but 
because the British refused them transportation up 

the Lakes, the plan had to be abandoned. 

62 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

When the news of St. Clair's defeat by the western 
tribes reached the Iroquois, they became so insolent 
and so unsettled in their allegiance, that the govern- 
ment feared they might be emboldened to again take 
up the hatchet and join their western friends. To gain 
their confidence and secure a fuller allegiance, and to 
show them the strength and power of the government 
of the United States, and the advantages of civiliza- 
tion. General Washington invited their chiefs to visit 
Philadelphia, then the national capital. In March, 
1792, fifty chiefs, among whom were Red Jacket and 
Farmer's Brother, traveled to Philadelphia under the 
care of the missionary. Rev. Samuel Kirkland, and 
became the Nation's guests. 

The governor of Pennsylvania made the speech of 
welcome. It is not the Indian custom to reply at once 
since that would show lack of reflection. The Indian 
meditates before replying. That is more dignified. 
Therefore, five days passed before Red Jacket replied 
to the governor in these words : 

"Brother Onas * Governor : Open unprejudiced 
ears to what we have to say. Some days since you ad- 
dressed us, and what you said gave us much pleasure. 
This day the Great Spirit has allowed us to meet you 

• Onas means pen. A name given to all Pennsylvania governors since William Penn. 

63 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

again in this council chamber. ... In your ad- 
dress in this ancient council chamber where our fore- 
fathers have often conversed together, several things 
struck our attention very forcibly. You told us this 
was the place in which our forefathers often met on 
peaceable terms, and it gave us sensible pleasure, and 
more joy than we could express. Though we have 
no writings like you, yet we remember often to have 
heard of the friendship that existed between our 
fathers and yours [the Quakers]. 

"The picture [Penn's treaty with the Indians] to 
which you drew our attention brought fresh to our 
minds the friendly conference that used to be held be- 
tween former governors of Pennsylvania and our 
tribes, and showed the love which your fathers had 
of peace, and the friendly disposition of our people. 
. . . As you love peace, so do we also, and we wish 
it could be extended to the most distant part of this 
great country." 

This and much besides, Red Jacket replied to the 
governor's address. It is Indian etiquette to ref>eat a 
speech entirely to show that it is understood and re- 
membered, and then to reply to it point by point, even 
if it be but an exchange of compliments. So Indian 
speeches were very long, and we can give only short 

extracts from Red Jacket's most noted ones, but these 

64 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

will illustrate his style of oratory. It is true that no 
interpreter had a sufficient command of the Iroquois 
tongue to interpret accurately all that he said. The 
Iroquois language is full of beautiful figures of speech 
which cannot be translated into English without losing 
some of their beauty, but with all these drawbacks we 
cannot fail to find some of Red Jacket's illustrations 
singularly beautiful, even in English. 

General Washington spoke in welcome to the as- 
sembled chiefs and delivered to them a belt of wam- 
pum as a record of the event. These belts are kept in 
the Indian council houses. Each belt has its history, 
the various strings in it representing the arguments, 
or the articles of the treaty, sale or other transaction 
which they record. They stand to the Indian in the 
place of books or legal documents. Red Jacket had a 
remarkable memory and could take down each belt 
in the Seneca council house and tell its history. A 
dispute once arose concerning a very early treaty con- 
cerning which Red Jacket made a statement. A white 
man contradicted him, saying that it was otherwise 
written in our books. 

"Then your books lie," calmly said the chief. "I 
have it written in this book here," pointing to his fore- 
head, "and that does not lie." It was found that he 
was right. 

65 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

To General Washington's speech Red Jacket re- 
pHed as follows : 

"Brother: I now request the attention of the 
President of the United States by his agent Colonel 
Pickering now present. 

When the other day, the Great Chief of this island 
[America] welcomed us to the great council fire of 
the Thirteen United States, he said it was from his 
heart. He said it gave him pleasure to look around 
and see such a numerous representation of the Five 
Nations, and that it was at his request that we were 
invited, to promote the happiness of our nation in a 
friendly connection with the United States. He told 
us that his love of peace extended to the nations of 
the setting sun [West] and that it was his wish that 
universal peace might prevail on this island. 

Brother: What other reply can your brothers of 
the Five Nations make than to thank him, and say 
that it has given a spring to every emotion of our 
souls? The sentiment of your Chief that a happy 
peace might be established so firmly that nothing could 
move it, that it might be founded on a rock, has given 
joy to our hearts. ... At the close of his ad- 
dress your Chief observed that our professions of 
friendship and regard were commonly witnessed by 

66 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

some token; therefore in the name of the United 
States he presented us with this white belt which was 
to be handed down from one generation to another as 
confirmation of his words." 

Red Jacket held the belt in his hand while speak- 
ing-. He now laid it aside, and taking up another one, 
proceeded : 

"Now let the President possess his mind in peace. 
The belt he gave us is deposited with us and we have 
taken fast hold of it. . . . 

Brother: We consider ourselves in the presence 
of the Great Spirit the proprietor of us all. 

The President in effect observed to us that we were 
free men and might speak with freedom ; that we were 
the sole proprietors of the soil on which we live. This 
is the source of the joy which we feel. How can two 
brothers speak freely unless they feel that they are 
Upon equal ground ? . . . You enjoy all the bless- 
ings of life : to you therefore we look to make provision 
that the same may be enjoyed by our children. This 
wish comes from our heart. . . . 

Brother: When you Americans and the King of 
England made peace, the king did not mention us, not- 
withstanding all he said to us and all we suffered. 
This was the occasion of great sorrow and loss to the 

67 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

Five Nations. When you and he settled the peace he 
never asked us for a delegation to attend to our in- 
terests. Had he done this, a settlement of peace among 
all the western nations might have been effected. But 
passing us by unnoticed has brought us great pain and 
trouble. But you Americans are determined not to 
treat us in the same manner. You desired us at the 
re-establishment of peace to sit at our ancient fire- 
places and again to enjoy our lands. Had the peace 
between you and the king been completely established, 
it would, long before this, have extended far beyond 
the Five Nations. 

Brother: Have patience and continue to listen. 
The President assured us that he is not the cause of 
the hostilities existing westward. We wish you would 
point out to us what you think is the real cause. Shall 
we observe that he wished if the errors of the hostile 
Indians could be discovered, he would use his utmost 
exertions to remove them? 

Brother: You and the King of England are the 

two governing powers of this island. What are we? 

You are both important and proud, and cannot adjust 

your own affairs agreeably to your declarations of 

peace. Therefore the western Indians are bewildered. 

One says one thing to them, and one says another. 

68 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

Were these things adjusted it would be easy to diffuse 
peace everywhere. 

In confirmation of our words, we give this belt 
which we wish the President to hold fast in remem- 
brance of what we have now spoken." 

In this speech Red Jacket struck at the root of the 
difficulty with the western tribes. No honorable peace 
had been arranged by the English for their Indian 
allies ; and, while the treaty of peace between England 
and the Colonies had been signed, yet its spirit was 
ignored by the English who still held the frontier posts. 
They kept the western tribes in a state of rebellion. 

It was a cutting sarcasm but an unfortunate truth 
that Red Jacket uttered when he said, "You are of one 
blood and cannot agree on peace. How shall the west- 
ern Indians know whom to trust?" 

When the Indians left Philadelphia, Red Jacket car- 
ried with him a large silver medal, which General 
Washington had given him. Engraved upon it was a 
picture of Washington presenting to the Indian a peace 
pipe. In the background was a man plowing with 
oxen, showing the arts of civilization which the In- 
dian was to adopt. Red Jacket was exceedingly proud 
of this medal and always wore it on state occasions, 

though one of his biographers relates that later in life, 

69 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

when drink had laid strong hold of him, he often 
pawned it for liquor. 

The government presented to each chief a suit of 
military clothes. Red Jacket objected to the gift say- 
ing that a uniform was out of place on a peace chief 
or sachem; he therefore requested that a civil suit be 
given him, stipulating, however, that he keep the first 
until the second should be delivered. When the mes- 
senger brought the plain clothes, the wily chief said 
that he had decided to keep both, for though unable 
to wear military clothes in times of peace, he could, 
with perfect propriety, wear them in case of war ! 

During this visit Red Jacket had dined with Rob- 
ert Morris. The changing of plates between courses 
puzzled him, but fearful of appearing ignorant he did 
not ask the reason. On his return, he asked Thomas 
Morris why a man ran off with his knife, fork and 
plate so often. Thomas explained that clean plates 
were required so that food flavors would not be mixed. 

"But," said Red Jacket, "the taste stays on your 
palate. How do you change that?" 

"We wash that off with wine," explained Thomas. 

"Ah," rejoined the chief regretfully, "I wish I had 

known that, then I should have kept on drinking until 

the man brought back my plate ; for, fond as I am of 

eating, I am still fonder of drinking." 

70 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

In consequence of the conference held at Philadel- 
phia, Red Jacket and Cornplanter went, some time 
later, on a mission to the western Indians to explain 
to them the terms of peace offered by the United 
States. Red Jacket's appeal was not effective, and the 
deleg-ation received little attention. Peace was not 
made until General Wayne had defeated the Indians 
with great slaughter at the Rapids of the Maumee 
river. 

It will be remembered that Robert Morris had pur- 
chased from Massachusetts the pre-emptive right to 
the Genesee lands. To extinguish the Indian title he 
called a council at Big Tree in 1797. Red Jacket now 
opposed giving up the land. Mr. Morris told the In- 
dians that their land was valueless while unimproved 
and that they clung to it simply because they imagined 
the possession gave them importance. Red Jacket re- 
plied that the knowledge of ownership was everything 
to them. 

"It creates in our bosoms a proud feeling which 
elevates us as a nation. Observe the difference be- 
tween the estimation in which a Seneca and an Oneida 
are held. We are courted, while they are considered 
a degraded people fit only to make brooms and bas- 
kets. Why this difference? It is because the Senecas 

71 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

are known as the proprietors of a broad domain ; while 
the Oneidas are cooped up in a narrow space." 

Mr. Morris remarked that they were not as im- 
portant as they imagined, for the western nations had 
paid them scant attention when they had attempted 
the pacification of the Miamis. Red Jacket, quite un- 
daunted, said it was true that they had been neglected, 
but it was because they were in bad company. They 
were with the United States commissioners. Had 
they gone alone, they would have been honored as 
Senecas had always been honored the world over. 

Red Jacket then extinguished the Council Fire in 
token that the conference was over. This was a dis- 
courtesy, of which Thomas Morris complained to the 
Indian women. He made a clever appeal, distributing 
presents among them, and they promptly reopened the 
Council, naming Cornplanter as their representative. 
Though Red Jacket absented himself from the Coun- 
cil, he insisted on signing the treaty on its conclusion. 

The purchase money was invested for the Indians 
in United States bank stock. They could not under- 
stand the nature of a bank. They believed that it was 
some large place in Philadelphia where their money 
was planted, and that some years the crop would be 

better than other years, because the interest varied. 

72 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

They often asked Mr. Morris what kind of a money 
crop they were likely to have. 

When dividing the yearly dividend, each father laid 
upon a blanket as many small sticks as there were 
members in his family. Then the pieces of coin were 
laid beside each stick so as to insure a fair division. 

Because of his consistent opposition to the land 
sales, Red Jacket rose steadily in favor with his peo- 
ple. At the Hartford convention, when Connecticut 
tried to adjust the claims to the Ohio lands, he made 
another appeal for their restoration. They had been 
the hunting- grounds of the Five Nations, and he made 
a last and touch ingly pathetic plea for them, which 
certainly was prophetic. 

"We stand," he said, "a small island in the bosom 
of the great waters. We are encircled — we are en- 
compassed. The Evil Spirit rides upon the blast — 
the waters are disturbed. They rise, they press upon 
us, and the waves settle over us. We disappear for- 
ever. Who, then, lives to mourn us? None I 
What marks our extermination? Nothing! We are 
mingled with the common elements." 

Cornplanter, who usually acted as peacemaker, and 
advised acceptance of the white man's terms, suffered 
an eclipse of popularity. To re-establish himself he 

73 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

persuaded his brother to become a prophet or teacher. 
So great was the Prophet's influence with the Onon- 
dag-as that they abandoned drunkenness and other 
sins, and became temperate, moral, and law-abiding. 
When he had gained the full confidence of his people, 
he ventured to accuse Red Jacket of witchcraft, among 
the Indians a most serious crime, punishable by death. 
Red Jacket saw at once that now he must make the 
effort of his life; that only his eloquence could save 
him. At a council held at Buffalo Creek he made his 
defense, speaking three hours, and so effectively that 
a majority acquitted him, and the Prophet was 
branded a cheat. 

Red Jacket himself believed in Avitchcraft. He once 
made a strong speech in defense of an Indian, Tom- 
Jemmy by name, who, by order of his tribe, had put to 
death a supposed witch. Tom-Jemmy was tried for 
murder. When sworn. Red Jacket was asked whether 
he believed in God. "Yes," he replied with a sharp 
glance, "more than does the man who can ask such a 
question !" 

Then he began to speak: "What! do you de- 
nounce us as fools and bigots because we continue to 
believe that which you taught two centuries ago? 

Your divines thundered this belief from the pulpits, 

74 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

your judges have pronounced it from the bench, your 
courts have sanctioned it with the formalities of law, 
and you would now punish our unfortunate brother 
for adherence to the superstition of his fathers ! 

Go to Salem! Look at the records of your gov- 
ernment and you will find hundreds executed for the 
very crime which has called forth the sentence of con- 
demnation on this woman, and drawn down the arm 
of vengeance upon her. What have our brothers done 
more than the rulers of your people? What crime 
has this man committed in executing the laws of his 
country and the commands of the Great Spirit?" 

Some time during 1802 Red Jacket made a journey 
to Washington, which had become the nation's capi- 
tal, to complain of the murder of seven Indians. After 
the commissioners had satisfied him that justice would 
be done, Red Jacket thus concluded his speech : 

"Brother: Yesterday you wiped the tears from 
our eyes that we might see clearly ; you unstopped our 
ears that we might hear, and removed the obstruc- 
tions from our throats that we might speak distinctly. 
You offered to join us in tearing up the largest pine 
in our forest and under it to bury the tomahawk. We 
gladly join you, brother, in this work. And now let 
us heap rocks and stones on the roots of this tree that 
the tomahawk may never again be found." 

75 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

Having no more land sales to oppose, since all but 
the reservations on which the Indians lived were sold, 
Red Jacket now turned his attention to the attempts 
which were being- made to educate and Christianize 
the Indians. We have before mentioned the fact that 
he was a Pagan and violently opposed to all such at- 
tempts. He reasoned that as long as the Indians ad- 
hered to the beliefs and customs of their fathers, so 
long they were united, prosperous and happy; that 
with the advent of civilization had come, disruption, 
degradation, poverty and unhappiness; hence, civil- 
ization was a bad thing for the Indian. His hatred 
for the "black-coats" (missionaries) was specially vio- 
lent, and for years he fought to keep them off the Buf- 
falo Creek Reservation. His reply to one Cram, who 
spoke to the assembled Indians at a council in 1805, 
is especially interesting. Mr. Cram began by telling 
them that their religion was all wrong and that he had 
been sent by the Great Spirit to teach them the true 
religion. The chiefs listened politely until he had fin- 
ished. Then Red Jacket arose, drew his blanket about 
him and delivered one of his great speeches : 

"Friend and brother : It was the will of the Great 
Spirit that we should meet together this day. He has 
given us a fine day for our council. He has taken his 

76 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

garment from before the sun and caused it to shine 
with brightness upon us. . . . Our ears are un- 
stopped ; we have heard distinctly the words you have 
spoken. . . . We have listened with attention to 
what you have said. 

You want an answer to your talk. Listen to what 
we have to say : 

There was a time when our forefathers owned this 
great island. Their seats extended from the rising to 
the setting sun. The Great Spirit made it for the use 
of the Indians. He created buffalo, deer and other 
animals for food. He made the bear and the beaver, 
and their skins serve for our clothing. He caused the 
earth to produce corn for bread. All this he has done 
for his red children because he loved them. 

If we had disputes about hunting grounds, they 
were settled without the shedding of much blood. But 
an evil day came upon us. Your forefathers crossed 
the great waters and landed here. Their numbers 
were small; they found friends not enemies; they 
told us they had fled from their own country for fear 
of wicked men, and they came here to enjoy their re- 
ligion. They asked us for a small seat; we took pity 
on them and granted their request, and they sat down 
amongst us. We gave them com and meat ; they gave 

77 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

us poison in return. The white people had now found 
our country; more came, yet we did not fear them. 
We took them to be friends, they called us brothers; 
we believed them and gave them a large seat. They 
wanted more land — they wanted our country. Our 
eyes were opened and our minds became uneasy. Wars 
took place. Indians were hired to fight Indians, and 
many of our people were destroyed. They also 
brought strong liquors among us : it has slain thous- 
ands. 

Brother, our seats were once large and yours small ; 
you have now become a great people and we have 
scarcely a place left" to spread our blankets; you have 
got our country but are not satisfied; you want to 
force your religion upon us. 

Brother, continue to listen. You say that you are 
sent to instruct us how to worship the Great Spirit, 
and that if we do not take hold of the religion which 
you teach, we shall be unhappy hereafter. How do 
you know this to be true? Your religion is written 
in a book; if it were intended for us as well as for 
you, why has not the Great Spirit given it to us? 
Why did he not give to our forefathers the knowledge 
of that book with the means of understanding it right- 
ly? We know only what you tell us about it; how 

78 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

shall we know when to believe, being so often de- 
ceived by white people? 

Brother, you say there is but one way to worship 
and serve the Great Spirit ; if there is but one religion 
why do you white people differ so much about it? 
Why not agree, as you can all read the book? 

We also have a religion which was given to our 
forefathers and has been handed down to their chil- 
dren. 

We worship that way. It teaches us to be thank- 
ful for the favors we receive, to love each other, to be 
united; we never quarrel about religion! 

Brother, the Great Spirit made us all ; but he made 
a great difference between his white and his red chil- 
dren. He has given us different complexions and dif- 
ferent customs. Since he made so great a difference 
between us in other things, why may we not conclude 
that he has given us different religions according to 
our understanding? The Great Spirit does right; he 
knows what is best for his children and we are satis- 
fied. We do not wish to destroy your religion or take 
it from you, we only want to enjoy our own. 

Brother, we are told that you have been preaching 
to the white people of this place. They are our neigh- 
bors, we are acquainted with them; we will wait a 

79 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

little and see what effect your preaching has upon 
them. If it does them good and makes them honest, 
and less disposed to cheat Indians, we will then con- 
sider again what you have said." 

To another missionary who attempted to convert 
him, he declared that Indians turned out badly who 
were taught Christianity. Then he contrasted the 
happy, virtuous, contented life of the true Indian with 
the cheating, grasping discontent of the whites, and 
generously offered to send missionaries to the whites to 
teach them the Indian religion ! 

Upon the breaking out of the war of 1812, Mr. 
Granger, the Indian agent, convened a council at Buf- 
falo, in July, to advise the Indians to keep out of the 
fray. The Mohawks had already joined the British, 
and an effort undertaken by Red Jacket to bind them 
to neutrality was fruitless. Brant scornfully remarked 
that Red Jacket vowed fidelity to the United States 
and sealed the vow by kissing the picture of George 
Washington. 

At first the Senecas consented to keep quiet, but 
after hostilities began, the war spirit made the young 
braves restless and eager to fight. When a rumor 
reached them that the British had captured Grand 
Island, their own particular territory, Red Jacket 

80 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

called a council and made the following speech to the 
commissioners : 

"Brother: You have told us that we have nothing 
to do with this war, that it has taken place between you 
and the British. But we find that the war has come 
to our doors. Our property is taken by the British and 
their Indian friends. It is necessary for us to take up 
this business to defend our property and drive the 
enemy from it. If we sit still and take no means of 
redress, the British (according to the custom of you 
white people) will hold it by conquest. And should 
you conquer Canada, you will claim it upon the same 
principle, as conquered from the British. We there- 
fore request permission to go with our warriors and 
drive off those bad people and take possession of our 
lands." 

A grand council of the Confederacy was then 
called and the following declaration of war issued: 
"We, the Chiefs and Councillors of the Six Nations 
of Indians residing in the State of New York do here- 
by proclaim to all the war-chiefs and warriors of the 
Six Nations that war is declared on our part against 
the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada. 

Therefore we do hereby command and advise all 
the war-chiefs to call forth immediately the warriors 

81 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

under them and put them in motion to protect their 
rights and liberties which our brethren the Americans 
are now defending." 

The Indians took no active part in the war until 
1 813. Then several hundred braves under Farmer's 
Brother, all painted and armed, reported to General 
Lewis at Fort Niagara. They were sorely disappointed 
because they were not engaged immediately. Later, 
when the English refused to give up their Indian allies, 
a body of four hundred under young Cornplanter 
(called Captain O'Bail) engaged to defend Black Rock 
and Buffalo. This was in July of 181 3. 

The principal chiefs who engaged in the war were 
Farmer's Brother, Red Jacket, Little Billy, Pollard, 
Black Smoke, Half Town and young Cornplanter. 
They served well in the battle of Fort George on the 
seventeenth of August. Here Red Jacket aroused them 
to valorous work and went himself to lead them. They 
ambuscaded the Mohawks and routed them. They 
had previously, in council, decided to take no scalps 
and commit no atrocities, and this resolution was 
faithfully kept. General Boyd reported that "the brav- 
ery and humanity of the Indians were equally con- 
spicuous." They aided in the battle of Chippewa, and 
were with Porter at Fort Erie in July, 1814. So com- 
pletely were the Mohawks cowed by the prowess of the 

82 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

Senecas that an embassy sent by Red Jacket desiring 
that all Indians withdraw from the contest, was suc- 
cessful. No charge of cowardice could be made against 
Red Jacket in this war. He fought bravely and to 
good purpose at Chippewa, holding one end of the line 
of battle while General Porter directed the other. 

After the war the Ogden Land Company attempted 
to get the Buffalo Creek Reservation by engaging to 
remove the Indians to the West. A council was held 
on the Reservation (1819) at which were present 
Colonel Ogden, for the Ogden Company, the principal 
chiefs of the Senecas, Onondagas and Cayugas, and 
the United States commissioner. The commis- 
sioner explained that he came with the consent of 
the United States government, and that the Ogden 
Company had the pre-emptive right to the land, and 
wished now to purchase the title of the Indians. 

Red Jacket became very angry on hearing this. He 
said: 

"Not long ago you raised the war-club against him 
who was once our Great Father over the water. You 
asked us to go with you to war. It was not our quar- 
rel. We knew not that you were right. We asked 
not; we cared not; it was enough for us that you 
were our brothers. We went with you to battle; we 

88 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

fought for you — and now, dare you pretend that our 
father the President, while he sees our blood running 
[pointing to wounded chiefs], yet fresh from the 
wounds received in fighting his battles, has sent you to 
us with a message to persuade us to relinquish the poor 
remains of our once boundless possessions, to sell the 
birthplace of our children, and the graves of our fath- 
ers? 

No ! Sooner than believe that he gave you this mes- 
sage we will believe that you have stolen your commis- 
sion and are a cheat and a liar !" 

He further declared that not one foot more of their 
lands would the Indians sell, neither would they toler- 
ate the presence of white men on their Reservation. 

While the other chiefs were agreed that they would 
part with no more land, they felt that Red Jacket's lan- 
guage had been discourteous and required an apology, 
but he refused to make one. In 1826 the pre-emption- 
ers did secure several mile strips and in 1838 they se- 
cured by bribery the signatures of many chiefs to a 
treaty giving up the Buffalo Creek Reservation for the 
Kansas lands. So great was the discontent aroused by 
this measure that in 1842 the Indians were paid for 
those lands and allowed to live on other reservations if 
they chose. But the land held by them for two hun- 

84 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

dred years was theirs no longer. Happily Red Jacket 
did not live to see that day. 

Many amusing stories are told of his later years. In 
1825, when General Lafayette visited Buffalo, Red 
Jacket called upon him and asked whether he remem- 
bered being present at the treaty of Fort Stanwix. The 
General did remember, and asked what had become of 
the young warrior who spoke so eloquently in denun- 
ciation of the treaty. 

"He is before you," said Red Jacket, proudly, and 
continued : 

"Ah, time has not been so severe upon you as it has 
upon me. It has left you a fresh countenance and hair 
to cover your head, while to me, — behold!" And tak- 
ing a handkerchief from his head he showed, with 
much feeling, a crown almost bald. When informed 
that General Lafayette wore a wig, he said, laugh- 
ingly, "Ah, then, I'll have to scalp some of my friends 
to get one, too !" 

One day he invited himself to breakfast at the home 
of the interpreter. Knowing his fondness for sweets, 
his hostess in sport handed him a cup of coffee without 
sugar. Stirring it indignantly, he remarked to his 

host : "Do you allow your squaw to make fun of your 
father?" The children had giggled, and he sternly 

85 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

continued : "And your children to insult their chief?" 
The sugar bowl was hastily handed him and he calmly 
emptied the entire contents into his cup and ate it with 
a spoon ! 

A nobleman who had heard of Red Jacket once sent 
for him to visit him at his Buffalo hotel. Red Jacket 
replied that great men who desired to see him visited 
him at his home. The man returned that he had 
crossed the ocean to see him and was now tired. 

"It is strange," said the Chief, "that he has come so 
far and then stopped seven miles from my lodge." The 
Count was obliged to call first, whereupon Red Jacket 
returned the visit. 

When the Thayer brothers were hanged, crowds 
streamed to Buffalo to see the sight. A friend met Red 
Jacket going in the opposite direction and asked the 
reason. "Plenty fools there now," he returned. 
"Battle is the place to see men die." 

It is sad to have to relate that with the growth of 
Buffalo so near the Reservation, opportunities to get 
liquor increased, and Red Jacket fell a victim to the 
drink habit. He became a familiar figure in the streets 
and taverns of Buffalo, and soon his face and figure 
began to show the results of drunkenness. 

86 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

He left his wife when she became a Christian, 
though, later, his Httle daughter induced him to return. 

His enmity to all progress, together with his drunk- 
enness, caused the progressive party among the Indians 
to depose him. This aroused him. He hastened to 
Washington to lay the case before Colonel M'Kenney, 
the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. 

"I have a talk for you," said he to M'Kenney. 

''Wait, I too have a talk for you," replied M'Ken- 
ney, and then went over the whole difficulty, advising 
Red Jacket to cease opposition and he would help re- 
instate him. Red Jacket seemed surprised at M'Ken- 
ney's knowledge of the whole affair, and remarked, 
"Our father has a long eye." He returned to Buffalo, 
called a grand Council and made his defense. He 
spoke eloquently as of yore. This was probably his 
last great speech. Half-Town and other chiefs spoke 
for him and he was restored by an almost unanimous 
vote. He did not live long after his restoration. 

Three more years of hard drinking weakened him 
so that he felt that he had but a short time to live. He 
visited his old friends to say good-bye, and made this 
sorrowful speech : 

**I am about to leave you, and when I am gone my 
warnings shall be no longer heard or regarded. The 

87 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

craft and avarice of the white man will prevail. Many 
winters have I breasted the storm, but I am an aged 
tree and can stand no longer. My leaves are fallen, 
my branches withered and I am shaken by every breeze. 
Soon my aged trunk will be prostrate and the foot of 
the exulting foe of the Indian may be placed upon it 
with safety, for I have none who will be able to avenge 
such an indignity. Think not I mourn for myself. I 
go to join the spirits of my fathers where age cannot 
come; but my heart fails me when I think of my 
people, who are so soon to be scattered and forgotten." 
Of the arrangements for his funeral he said : 
"Bury me beside my former wife. . . . Let my 
funeral be according to the customs of our nation. Let 
me be dressed and equipped as my fathers were that 
their spirits may rejoice at my coming. Be sure that 
my grave be not made by a white man; let them not 
pursue me there." 

During the last few months he ceased his opposition 
to education and progress. He seemed anxious to es- 
tablish peace between the pagan and Christian parties, 
and for that purpose called a council, advising that each 
be allowed to choose for himself how he would live. 

During the council he was taken ill. When told that 

88 



RED JACKET, THE SENECA ORATOR. 

his plan for peace had been adopted he seemed re- 
lieved. 

He refused all medicine, and died without any ex- 
pression of fear, on the 20th of January, 1830. 

In spite of his protest he was given Christian burial. 
At first hrs grave was made in the Indian Burying 
Ground near the Mission Church. Later the body was 
removed to Forest Lawn Cemetery, where a beautiful 
monument marks the spot where rests "the last of the 
Senecas." 

It bears the following inscription : 

"Sa-go-ye-wat-ha 

Red Jacket, 

Chief of the 

Wolf Tribe of the Senecas — 

The Friend and Protector of his People, 

Died Jan. 20, 1830, 

Aged 78 years." 



DEH-HE-WA-MIS, 

Deh-he-wa-mis was a little white girl who was born 
on the Atlantic Ocean while her mother and father 
were on their way to America from Ireland. Her real 
name was Mary Jemison, and you will wonder how she 
came to be called Deh-he-wa-mis, which is Indian, and 
means a good or pleasant thing or a handsome child ; 
but that is the story I am about to tell you. 

When the parents of little Mary Jemison reached 
America, they made their way through the wilderness 
to southern Pennsylvania., where they found a pleas- 
ant place near Marsh Creek,* which they selected for 
their home. Mary's father was a farmer, and with 
Mary's two older brothers soon cleared the land, built 
a comfortable cabin, and lived happily until the French 
and Indian War broke out. Two little baby brothers 
came meanwhile, and Mary, now a well-grown girl of 
twelve years, helped her mother to take care of the 
little ones. 

* Adams County. 

90 



fTHE WHITE SQUAW OF THE GENESEE. 

For a year the Jemisons had heard reports of ter- 
rible midnight attacks, of homes burnt and of settlers 
carried off or scalped by the Indians, and for a year 
they lived in constant dread; but, except for an occa- 
sional hungry wolf or panther, nothing dangerous came 
near them until the spring of 1755. Then, on a beauti- 
ful morning, before the family had breakfasted, a small 
party of Shawnee Indians, accompanied by four 
Frenchmen, suddenly appeared in the clearing. Meet- 
ing with no resistance they securely bound the family, 
ransacked the place, and then hastily made off into the 
forest with their prisoners and booty. 

For two days the party hurried along without stop- 
ping except at night, evidently expecting that they 
would be followed. Care was taken to leave no trail. 
An Indian followed the party, poking up the grass 
where the clumsy white people had trampled it. In- 
dians leave no sign behind when they are flying from an 
enemy. No fires were built and no halt made for food 
until the second day. The little boys suffered greatly 
from hunger, thirst and fatigue, but if they cried or 
lagged an Indian with a whip lashed them into line. 

On the third day the Indians discovered that they 
were being followed. A rescue party made up of the 
Jemisons' neighbors was on their trail. This probably 

91 



DEH-HE-WA-MIS. 

determined them to get rid of their prisoners. For 
some reason Mary was separated from the rest. Her 
shoes were exchanged for moccasins and then an In- 
dian took her away from the camp into the forest, 
where they lay down to spend the night. Next morn- 
ing a number of fresh scalps in the hands of her cap- 
tors told but too plainly what fate had befallen her dear 
ones. The poor child was heart-broken when she recog- 
nized them, but she dared make no outcry nor com- 
plaint. It was probably the uncomplaining patience 
with which she had borne the long, hard journey, to- 
gether with her pleasing appearance, that caused the 
Indians to spare her life; for they admire courage and 
endurance and she had shown both. 

When the pursuing neighbors came to the spot 
where the murdered and mutilated family lay, they 
gave up the pursuit. The Indians now traveled more 
slowly, taking good care of the little white child until 
they reached the French Fort Du Quesne. Before en- 
tering the fort they painted Mary up in fine Indian 
style. 

Next day two Seneca squaws came to the fort and 

inspected the little girl. She seemed to please them, 

for, after some conversation with her captors, the Sen- 

92 



THE WHITE SQUAW OF THE GENESEE. 

eca women put her into their boat and paddled down 
the Ohio river to their home. 

On the way Mary saw, along- the banks of the river, 
many shocking sights of burnt homes and murdered 
people. When they arrived at the Seneca town, the 
squaws dressed Mary in Indian fashion and then took 
her to their wigwam. 

These Indian women had lost a brother in the war, 
and had followed the usual Indian custom of getting 
either a prisoner or a scalp to make good the loss. 
When a family's grief was no longer keen and the pris- 
oner suited their fancy, they often adopted him to fill 
the place of the dead one ; but if they were still angry 
over their loss they frequently tortured and killed their 
prisoner. Little Mary was fortunate enough to please 
and was accordingly adopted by the family; and this 
is the way they did it : She was placed in the middle of 
the wigwam dressed in her new Indian suit. Then all 
the squaws of the village came in to look at her. Pres- 
ently they all set up a most dreadful howling and wail- 
ing, which was the mourning for the dead brother. 
One squaw chanted a sing-song telling how great a 
warrior he had been and how sad his death was. Her 
lament* as given by James E. Seaver is very poetic : 

• Life of Mary Jemison — James E. Seaver. 

93 



DEH-HE-WA-MIS. 

"Our brother ! alas, he is dead ! 
He has gone ; he will never return. 
Friendless he died on the field of the slain, 
Where his bones are yet lying unburied. 
Oh ! Who will not mourn his sad fate? 
No tears dropped around him. 
He fell in his prime, 

When his arm was most needed to keep us from dan- 
ger; 
He has left us in sorrow his loss to bewail. 
His spirit went naked, and hungry it wanders, 
And thirsty and wounded it groans to return ; 
No blanket nor food to nourish and warm him, 
Nor candles to light him nor weapons of war. 

But well we remember his deeds : 

The deer he could take on the chase. 

The panther shrunk back at the sight of his strength, 

His enemies fell at his feet. 

He was brave and courageous in war. 

As a fawn he was harmless, 

His friendship was ardent, 

His temper was gentle. 

His pity was great. 

94 



THE WHITE SQUAW OF THE GENESEE. 

But why do we grieve for his loss ? 
In the strength of a warrior, undaunted he left us 
To fight by the side of the chiefs. 
His war whoop was shrill. 
His rifle well-aimed laid his enemies low ; 
His tomahawk drank of their blood; 
His knife flayed their scalps while yet covered with 
gore. 

And why do we mourn ? 

Though he fell on the field, with glory he fell ; 

And his spirit went up to his fathers. 

With transports of joy they received him and fed him 

And clothed him and welcomed him there. 

Oh, friends, he is happy ; then dry up your tears, 

His spirit has seen our distress, 

And sent us a helper, with pleasure we greet her; 

Dehewamis has come : receive her with joy. 

She is handsome and pleasant. 

O ! she is our sister, 

And gladly we welcome her here. 

In the place of our brother she stands in our tribe 

With care we will guard her from trouble. 

And may she be happy till her spirit shall leave us/* 

95 



DEH-HE-WA-MIS. 

When the squaw chanted the last verse, they all sud- 
denly stopped crying, wiped their eyes, and began to 
laugh a.nd shout and act glad. The poor child, how- 
ever, having understood not one word of the ceremony, 
was frightened almost out of her wits, expecting every 
moment to be killed. 

The ceremony of adoption being over, the visiting 
squaws left the wigwam and Mary's new family showed 
by every possible kindness that she was now looked 
upon as a real little sister and would be treated as such. 
They taught her to speak the Seneca language and to 
do the lighter work which Indian women usually per- 
form. 

The village in which Mary now lived was on the 
Ohio about eighty miles from Fort Du Quesne. How- 
ever, after the corn had been harvested and winter was 
approaching, the tribe sought lands farther down the 
river on the banks of the Scioto, where game was plen- 
tiful and pelts could be obtained for trading with the 
white people. 

The following spring on returning to their farms 

they found that Fort Du Quesne had been captured by 

the English, so the Indians went up the Ohio to make 

a treaty of peace with the soldiers at that place before 

beginning their spring planting. Mary was taken with 

96 



THE WHITE SQUAW OF THE GENESEE. 

them ; but when the English became curious about the 
white child and asked her questions, the Indian sisters 
were so alarmed lest she be taken from them, that they 
hastily entered their canoe and never stopped rowing 
until they reached home. Mary had hoped for free- 
dom and grieved a long time over this disappointment ; 
but the unfailing kindness of the family made her for- 
get, after a time, that she had ever been anything else 
than a little Indian. 

When a farmer's land becomes poor he is obliged to 
use fertilizers on it to make things grow, but the Indi- 
ans merely move from the worn out farm to a better 
one; so in the third year of Mary's sojourn among 
them, the Senecas moved to a place called Wi-ish-to. 
Here they built a village and planted their corn, beans, 
squashes and tobacco. Their winter residence was still 
on the Scioto where they hunted and trapped. 

At Wi-ish-to Mary helped the squaws farm the land. 
She grew quite clever in planting and harvesting corn, 
in bringing in the game killed by the hunters, and in 
drying the meats. She learned to make samp and corn 
bread and to fashion Indian garments. 

After the removal to Wi-ish-to, a tribe of Delawares 
came to live with the Senecas. They were very friendly 
Indians. Among them was a tall, splendid, noble chief 

97 



DEH-HE-WA-MIS. 

whose name was She-nin-jee. He seemed to take much 
notice of Mary, who was now about sixteen years old, 
and was really Deh-he-wa-mis, that is, a pretty girl. 
She had a very fair skin, blue eyes, and golden hair. 
One day She-nin-jee sent a present to Mary's people, 
which meant that he wanted to marry her. Now, if 
they had returned the gift Sheninjee would have under- 
stood that they rejected his proposal ; but they did not 
do so. They kept it, thus showing their willingness to 
have Mary become the chief's wife. 

Mary did not fancy marrying an Indian, but when 
her sisters told her how good he was, and that they 
wished her to obey, she did not dare refuse ; so she and 
Sheninjee were married Indian fashion. He was so 
kind to her that she soon grew to love him dearly. 

By and by a girl baby came to their home but it did 
not live long. Mary grieved for it, but after some time 
she was comforted by the arrival of a healthy baby boy, 
whom she named Thomas Jemison after her father. 
So Mary, or Deh-hewamis, as we ought to call her, was 
very happy. Deh-hewamis no longer cared to leave the 
Indians. Here were her husband, baby, mother, broth- 
er and sisters, all Indians whom she loved dearly; while 
among the white people she no longer had any friends. 

On the banks of the beautiful Genesee river in west- 
98 



THE WHITE SQUAW OP THE GENESEE. . 

ern New York lived the rest of the Seneca tribe to 
which Mary's family belonged. Their chief was Little 
Beard and the town was known as Little Beard's Town. 
Soon after Deh-hewamis married, her people had gone 
to live there. They often invited her to come and live 
with them ; therefore, one fall, while her husband went 
hunting, she went north with her brothers to her sisters' 
home. 

Deh-hewamis strapped her little pappoose on her 
back, her brothers took some food for the journey and 
then they set off a-foot, through the wild forest, follow- 
ing the Indian trails, fording streams and sleeping in 
the woods on the ground. The journey was long and 
difficult. The fall rains began earlier than they ex- 
pected, and the streams became so swollen that it was 
dangerous to ford them. Once they nearly lost their 
lives. Then their food gave out; but they reached a 
deserted Delaware village where they found buried 
corn, beans and sugar which they took with them. At 
another time they fell in with a party of Shawnees who 
were torturing a white prisoner. Deh-hewamis wept 
and pleaded so hard that his life was spared and he was 
allowed to go free. It is said that she saved many lives 
in this way. 

99 



DEH-HE-WA-MIS. 

When they reached Little Beard's Town they found 
the Seneca warriors making ready to go to the banks of 
the Niagara (eighty miles west of the Genesee by trail), 
to help the French who were threatened by the British 
with an attack on Fort Schlosser. The latter were am- 
bushed and driven back to Fort Erie which they had 
shortly before taken from the French. The Senecas 
returned with several prisoners and much plunder. 
Then they celebrated a horrid feast during which they 
killed their prisoners. Deh-hewamis' sister made ready 
to attend the execution and persuaded the white woman 
to go with her ; but their Indian mother said that it was 
unwomanly to go to such a scene, and so Deh-hewamis 
was spared the awful sight, which would have wrung 
her tender heart. 

In the spring Deh-hewamis expected her husband to 
join her, but to her alarm, both spring and summer 
passed and he did not appear. At length a messenger 
arrived with the sad news of his death. Mary's grief 
was great, but she had no time to spend in idle tears, 

Note. — During her stay at Little Beard's Town the Seneca warriors made another 
attack on the Brittish at Niagara. This was known as the Devil's Hole Massacre which 
took place September 14, 1763. A English wagon-train returning from Fort Schlosser to 
Lewiston, a distance of seven miles through the woods, was waylaid at the Devil's Hole 
midway between the two points, and the whole cavalcade, teams, wagoners and escort, 
driven over the precipice or tomahawked and scalped before they could jump over* 
When the firing was heard at Lewiston, reniforcements were sent to the spot only to 
meet the same fate. Nearly a hundred men were killed. Farmer's Brother was one of 
the Seneca Leaders. A tablet marks the scene of this massacre. It was erected by 
the Niagara Frontier Landsmarks Association. 

100 



THE WHITE SQUAW OF THE GENESEE. 

for she had now to think of her own support and that 
of her child. Again her Indian family were kind and 
she stayed at the Genesee village. 

About this time the King of England tried to set 
free all white prisoners taken by the Indians during the 
war. He offered a sum of money for every one re- 
turned. A Dutchman who knew Deh-hewamis well, 
thought this a good chance to get money without work- 
ing for it, therefore he offered to take her to Fort Ni- 
agara; but she had no mind now to leave her Indian 
friends; she had become too sincerely attached to 
them. Since she would not go willingly he watched 
for an opportunity to kidnap her while she was work- 
ing in the field, but she was too quick for him and es- 
caped. The chiefs decided in council that she should 
remain if she wished to do so. One, however, called 
Old King, was determined to get the bounty and de- 
clared that he would take her to Niagara. Angry 
words passed between him and Deh-hewamis' brother 
who said he would kill her if Old King attempted to 
carry out his threat. Both were resolved, so, to save 
herself, Deh-hewamis took her boy and fled. She re- 
mained in hiding until Old King had given up the 
search and departed for Niagara without her. 

Thinking that Deh-hewamis would be safer if mar- 
ried to a great chief, Farmer's Brother advised her to 

101 



DEH-HE-WA-MIS. 

marry Hiokatoo, who was then about fifty years old 
and a great warrior. He had fought all through the 
French wars and was noted for his cruelty, but to Deh- 
hewamis and her children he was uniformly kind and 
gentle. During the Revolution he led many war- 
parties into peaceful valleys, leaving death and charred 
ruins behind him. But we must not blame him too 
much for the part he played in that war. He, like the 
other Indians, was deceived by the British. 

The Senecas suffered most of the punishment which 
General Washington ordered General Sullivan to inflict 
upon the Iroquois. When, in 1779, they heard of Sul- 
livan's approach, they sent their women and children 
into the forest for safety and then went to meet him. 
A battle was fought near Elmira in which the Indians 
were defeated. Then he marched all through the 
Genesee valley, destroying Little Beard's Town and all 
the surrounding Indian villages, together with their 
crops and orchards. 

Deh-hewamis, with five little children, two of whom 
she carried on her back, had fled with the rest. After 
Sullivan's army had gone, she returned, but not a 
house, animal, nor a mouthful of food was left, and 
winter was coming on. To save the lives of her little 
ones she traveled up the Genesee to the Gardeau Flats, 

102 



THE WHITE SQUAW OF THE GENESEE. 

where she secured employment from two negroes who 
were harvesting their corn. She was paid in corn, of 
which she earned enough to keep her children from 
starving. She was greatly amused when her negro- 
master guarded her with a shotgun for fear the In- 
dians might capture her. She took care not to let him 
know that there was no danger, for then he would have 
worked instead of watching, and so her wages would 
have been less. 

The winter was severe and many Indians died of 
starvation or froze to death; but Deh-hewamis lived 
comfortably in the negro's family until spring. Then 
she built herself a cabin, planted her corn and took care 
of her children while Hiokatoo, her husband, was away 
fighting the colonists. 

After the Revolution was over, her brother offered 
to let her seek her white relatives whose whereabouts 
she had Tearnt ; but the chiefs refused to allow her son 
Thomas to go with her, because he seemed likely to be- 
come a great chieftain. His mother could not make up 
her mind to leave him and for the last time decided to 
remain with the Indians. 

Her brother, thereupon, asked Farmer's Brother to 
secure from the Indians a tract of land which she 
might own and live upon. At a great council, held at 

103 



DEH-HE-WA-MIS. 

Big Tree, near Geneseo, in 1797, the friendly chief 
made a speech asking for this land. Mary, like a wise 
woman, had selected a large plot, containing twenty- 
four square miles (about seventeen thousand acres) 
right in the Genesee valley, where the land was rich. 
Red Jacket opposed giving her the land because she 
was a white woman, but the Indians were just and 
Mary received a grant or deed to her large farm, which 
was afterwards called Gardeau Reservation. It was 
too large for her to work ; therefore, when white settlers 
came that way, Mary leased the land to them and the 
rents soon made her rich. After a time she sold a large 
part of it. 

Mary might have been happy now, but unfor- 
tunately the white people brought rum with them, and 
her sons, especially Thomas, became very fond of it. 
When an Indian drinks rum he becomes quite crazy 
and does not know what he is about. Mary begged 
her sons to let it alone, but one day Thomas became 
drunk, quarreled with his brother John and called him 
a witch (wizard). This is a very great insult to an 
Indian, and John, whose temper was quick, struck 
Thomas with a tomahawk, killing him. The Indians 
tried John and forgave him the crime, but his brother 
Jesse did not. Much hard feeling grew up between the 

104 



THE WHITE SQUAW OF THE GENESEE. 

two brothers, and one day when both were drunk, they 
quarreled, and John stabbed Jesse. John himself was 
killed by two Indians some time later in another 
drunken quarrel. The poor woman's heart was broken. 
Hiokatoo, who had reached the advanced age of one 
hundred and three years, had died soon after Thomas, 
so Mary had only her three daughters left of a once 
numerous family. She lived with her daughter Polly 
until the white people began to settle about her so thickly 
that she felt strange among them. Then she sold out 
and moved to Buffalo Creek on the West Seneca Reser- 
vation, where her Indian friends lived. Here she re- 
mained until the year 1833. She gave up the Indian 
religion and became a Christian, but in all other ways 
she continued to live like an Indian, wearing the Indian 
costume and speaking the Seneca tongue. 

She died suddenly, September the nineteenth, 1833, 
in her ninety-first year. All who knew her spoke well 
of her. Honest, brave, kind-hearted and hospitable, 
she gained the friendship of her white neighbors as 
well as that of the Indians. 

They buried her in the Indian burying ground, but 
later removed her body to her former home near Port- 
age, where her grave is still pointed out to strangers. 

105 



BUFFALO VILLAGE. 

Away back in 1779, you remember, General Sullivan 
punished the Iroquois severely for the massacres which 
they had committed during the Revolutionary War. 
His punishment fell most heavily upon the Senecas, 
whose towns in the Genesee valley he burned, and 
whose crops and orchards he destroyed. When winter 
came, and it was an unusually severe one, many per- 
ished of starvation. Those of the Senecas who fled 
westward to the neighborhood of Niagara, found shel- 
ter in the fort which was held by the British, who fed 
them until spring ; then, being unable to support them 
longer, encouraged the Indians to settle down and farm 
the land. Therefore, in the spring of 1780, the little 
Indian village grew up about Buffalo Creek, which was 
afterward called West Seneca. 

That seems to have been the indirect beginning of 
Buffalo, for wherever the Indians settled, there white 
traders, trappers and liquor dealers were sure to follow. 
There were already several white persons in the Indian 
village, but these were the prisoners captured during 

106 



BUFFALO VILLAGE. 

the war. Among them were the Gilbert family and 
Elizabeth Peart with her baby, all of whom were set 
free later. 

The first white settler who came to Buffalo Creek 
was Captain William Johnston, interpreter, and Indian 
agent for the British at Fort Niagara. He married a 
squaw, secured a large tract of land from the Indians, 
and later, in 1794, built for himself a comfortable block 
house near Exchange and Washington streets. He 
may be considered the first white land owner in Buf- 
falo. He continued to live here until his death in 1807, 
and was respected, both by his white neighbors and by 
the Indians, whom he assisted in all their treaties. 

About 1784, maybe earlier, the very first settler ap- 
peared in Buffalo in the person of Cornelius Winne, a 
Dutch trader from Albany, who built a store on Little 
Buffalo Creek, now the Hamburg canal, comer of 
Washington and Quay streets ; he sold rum, whiskey, 
Indian knives and trinkets. His house was the resort 
of the Indians who loved "fire water." Soon after 

came Michael Middaugh, a Dutch cooper, and Ezekiel 
Lane, his son-in-law, who settled in a double log house 

near Winne. A negro, known as Black Joe, occupied 

with his Indian squaw and children, a cabin also near 

Winne's store. This constituted the Village of Buffalo 

107 



BUFFALO VILLAGE. 

Creek which the Duke de la Rochefoucauld Liaincourt 
visited in 1 795 and described thus : 

"We arrived at the post on Lake Erie which Is a 
small collection of four or five houses built about a 
quarter of a mile from the lake. . . . We arrived 
late at the inn, and after a very indifferent supper we 
were obliged to lie upon the floor in our clothes. There 
was literally nothing- in the house; neither furniture, 
rum, candles nor milk. After much trouble the milk 
was procured from the neighbors, who were not as ac- 
commodating in the way of rum and candles. At 
length, some arriving from the other side of the river 
[Fort Erie], we seasoned our supper with an appetite 
that seldom fails ; . . . and slept as soundly as we 
had done in the woods." 

The inn mentioned here had been opened the pre- 
vious year by John Palmer, a trader from Fort Erie, 
which was at that time a larger village than Buffalo. 

In the Life of Red Jacket, we have told of the coun- 
cils held at Buffalo Creek, from time to time, for the 
sale of Indian lands, or the extinguishment of the In- 
dian title to them. About the year 1797 the Indians 
had given up all the land outside of their reservations. 
In 1793, Robert Morris sold to certain wealthy Hol- 

108 



BUFFALO VILLAGE. 

landers, afterward known as the Holland Land Com- 
pany, through their agent, Herman Leroy, all the tract 
which at the present day includes Buffalo. The Hol- 
landers employed Joseph Ellicott to survey it and Theo- 
philus Cazenove as their agent. 

Meanwhile more people came. Sylvanus Maybee 
opened a "little Indian store" on Main street in 1796. 
Asa Ransom came somewhat later. It is interesting to 
know that his daughter was the first white girl born 
here. William Robbins, a blacksmith, came in 1798. 

In his interesting History of Buffalo, William 
Ketchum gives the following extract from a letter writ- 
ten to him by William Peacock, who passed through 
Buffalo in 1799: 

"The Indian path passed down to Buffalo Creek 
about the middle of Main street to the Terrace, on 
which was erected a log cabin covered with bark and 
occupied by Johnston, a descendant of Sir William 
Johnston. A little above where the Liberty Pole now 
stands [it stood on the Terrace], on the bank of Little 
Buffalo Creek [the canal now] there was erected a log 
cabin about twelve feet square covered with bark, oc- 
cupied by William Palmer, a young man, and was his 
storehouse where he vended his small stock of Indian 
goods. 

109 



BUFFALO VILLAGE. 

In passing down along the Indian path to the Ter- 
race, the land was covered with a very thick under- 
brush, small timber, and some large, old oak trees ; and 
these so overshadowed the path that, when our saddle- 
bags touched a bush, we would be completely drenched 
with rain after a shower. 

There was a little cleared spot on the Terrace bank 
that was covered with a green sward, on which the In- 
dians on a fine day, would lie, and look off from the 
high terrace upon Lake Erie ; and I must say, that to 
me it was one of the most beautiful views I ever put my 
eyes upon. Coming out of the woods, it burst upon the 
vision, the large beautiful sheet of water, Lake Erie." 

Joseph Ellicott began surveying the Holland tract 
in 1798, completing it in 1803. W}ien his map of the 
proposed city was completed, it presented a most won- 
derful assortment of long Dutch and Indian names. 
The town itself he named New Amsterdam, but the vil- 
lagers preferred the name of the creek. It is a curious 
fact that almost all the Dutch names of streets have 
disappeared. Willink and Van Staphorst avenues be- 
came Main street. Busti avenue is now Genesee, and 
Schimmelpennick is Niagara. The Indian Onondaga 
was changed to Washington street. Oneida street took 

110 



BUFFALO VILLAGE. 

Joseph Ellicott's name. Crow became Exchange street 
since that sounded more dignified. Many Indian names 
were retained. Such are Mohawk, Huron, Chippewa 
and Seneca streets. They were the names of the tribes 
whose trails ran through these forests. 

ElHcott has been called the Romulus of Buffalo. It 
was owing largely to his energy that Black Rock did 
not become the greater town. For a long time Buffalo 
and Black Rock were rivals. 

Black Rock was so named from a great flat rock that 
jutted out into the river and formed a natural and most 
excellent wharf or boat landing. An eddy made the 
water quiet inside, and the place was considered the 
safest harbor above the Falls. In course of time it be- 
came the terminus of roads leading to the river. The 
beach road from Buffalo Creek, the Batavia road and 
the Guide-board road (North street) led to it. The 
ferry is said to have been in use as early as 1796, if not 
earlier. Broad flat-boats with sweeps to propel them, 
plied between Black Rock and the Fort Erie shore. So 
good a harbor attracted settlers, especially those en- 
gaged in trade and transportation ; and soon an active 
salt trade was built up. 

On the other hand, Buffalo had no harbor, a sand- 
bar obstructing the mouth of the creek. Ellicott, fear- 
ill 



BUFFALO VILLAGE. 

ing that this disadvantage might send settlers to Black 
Rock, hurried his survey, and then began actively to 
push the sale of lots to settlers, offering such induce- 
ments as he thought would insure rapid growth. 
Money was scarce. Therefore attractive prices and 
easy payments did much to determine settlers. The 
battle for supremacy, between the two villages was not 
finally settled, however, until the Canal Commissioners 
decided to make Buffalo the western terminus of the 
Erie Canal. (See chapter on Erie Canal.) How im- 
probable would it have seemed to the rival towns at that 
time, that before the end of the century they should 
unite and form one great city ! 

Dr. Cyrenius Chapin was one of the first to purchase 
land after the survey was completed. We are told that 
he paid three hundred forty-six dollars and fifty cents 
for a lot of ninety-nine acres. He built a house on 
Swan and Main streets to which he brought his family 
from Fort Erie. He soon made his influence felt. He 
served the community not only as a skillful physician 
but later, in the War of 1812, as a soldier and officer. 
For thirty-five years he was an honored citizen of Buf- 
falo. 

In 1804 a great coach drawn by two horses, arrived 
in the village, creating no little excitement. It con- 

112 



BUFFALO VILLAGE. 

tained the family of Captain Samuel Pratt. His store 
was located where the Mansion House now stands. 
Erastus Granger also came to Buffalo about this time. 
He was appointed Indian Agent by the government, 
and soon won the confidence of the Senecas, over whose 
welfare he watched with fatherly interest. 

Among Joseph Ellicott's papers was found the fol- 
lowing letter, which shows the progressive spirit of the 
new settlers : 

"Bu^ifAi.0, II August, 1801. 

"Sir — The inhabitants of this place would take it as 
a particular favor if you would grant them the liberty 
of raising a school-house on a lot in any part of the 
town, as the New York Missionary Society have been 
so good as to furnish them with a school-master, clear 
of any expense except boarding and finding him a 
school-house. 

By request of the Inhabitants, 

Jos. R. Pai^m^r. 

Jos. EivUCoTT, Esq. 

N. B. Your answer would be very acceptable as 
they have the timber ready to hew out." 

In Ellicott's journal appears this entry : 

"Aug. 14, 1 801. Went to Buffalo alias New Am- 
113 



BUFFALO VILIJAGE. 

sterdam to lay off a lot for a school-house, the inhabi- 
tants offering to erect one at their own expense." 

The school was built on Pearl and Swan streets, and 
remained until Buffalo was burned. 

Mr. William Hall, who visited Buffalo in 1804, 
wrote : "There were perhaps twenty houses, of which 
only three or four were frame. . . . Some streets 
were partially laid out, but the whole place was full of 
stumps and there were no fences. . . . Leaving 
Buffalo, we went to Black Rock through the woods — a 
small path-way trodden mostly by Indians. We crossed 
the river in a scow to the Canada side and found a good 
road to Chippewa." (Ketchum.) 

Rev. Timothy Dwight wrote the same year : 

"The streets are straight and cross each other at 
right angles, but are only forty feet wide. . . . 
The prospect presented at Buffalo is most attractive. 
. . . Directly opposite at a distance of two miles, 
but in full view stands Fort Erie, a blockhouse, bar- 
racks and a hamlet." (Ketchum.) Of the Black Rock 
harbor he wrote that the commerce of that neighbor- 
hood would in time, become of great national import- 
ance, and involve no small part of the interest and hap- 
piness of millions, — a prophecy now fulfilled. 

114 



BUFFALO VILLAGE. 

In Turner's Holland Purchase occurs this descrip- 
tion by David Mather : 

"I settled in Buffalo in 1806. There were then six- 
teen dwelling houses, principally frame ones ; eight of 
them scattered along Main St., three on the terrace, 
three on Seneca street and two on Cayuga street 
(Pearl). There were two stores, one kept by Vincent 
Grant, the other by Samuel Pratt. Mr. Le Couteulx 
kept a drug store in part of his house on Crow (Ex- 
change) street. David Rees's Indian blacksmith shop 
was on Seneca street, and William Robbins had one on 
Main street. John Crow kept a tavern where the Man- 
sion House stands, and Judge Barker kept one on the 
site of the Market (Elk street). I remember very well 
the arrival of the first public mail that ever reached 
Buffalo. It was brought on horseback by Ezra Met- 
calf. He came to my blacksmith shop to get his horse 
shod. He told me that he could carry the contents of 
his mail bag in his two hands." 

In 1808 Joseph Ellicott's land office did a thriving 
business, lots selling at from twenty-five to fifty dol- 
lars each. In 18 10 a courthouse and a jail were built. 
By 181 1 the little village had a population of nearly 
five hundred, and began to feel the need of a newspaper. 

116 



BUFFALO VILLAGE. 

This was supplied by the brothers Smith and Hezekiah 
Sahsbury, who published the Buffalo Gazette in Octo- 
ber of that year. It was due to several humorous ar- 
ticles published in this paper that the final e was 
dropped from the name Buffalo. 

That the affairs of the village were guided by a 
steady, law-abiding, God-fearing body of men is 
shown by the following notice which appeared in the 
Buffalo Gazette: 
RdsoIvUTions of the Morai. Society op Bueeaeo. 

Resolved, That after the 23d of November the laws 
of the State prohibiting violations of the Sabbath shall 
be strictly enforced, against all persons who, on that 
day, shall drive into the village loaded teams, or shall 
unload goods, wares and merchandise, or shall vend 
goods, or keep open stores or shops for the purpose of 
trading or laboring, or who shall engage in hunting, 
fishing, etc., etc. ; also against all parties of pleasure 
riding or walking to Black Rock or elsewhere. 

Resolved, That the above resolutions be published 
two weeks in the Gazette, published in this village, that 
strangers as well as villagers may be informed of the 
same and govern themselves accordingly. 
By order of the Society, 

A. Caixendar, Sec'y. 

116 



BUFFALO VILLAGE. 

These resolutions remind us of the stories of the 
Puritans. 

Life in early Buffalo was like life in any pioneer 
community. It was a life of struggle and hardship. 
The early settlers had the wilderness to subdue; the 
savages to keep friendly ; poverty to fight ; and illness 
to endure. They toiled unceasingly. They were men 
and women of much courage and perseverance, who 
ventured to build their firesides and rear their children 
in this then far-western savage community. Of money 
there was little or none ; of food only such as they could 
raise after clearing a patch about their log huts, or such 
as the ever-ready rifle brought down. Their clothing 
was of home manufacture; their furniture such rude 
pieces as a handy man could fashion after his day's 
work was done. Their medicines were the simple herbs 
which the Indians taught them to find in field and for- 
est. Their religion had for its chief tenets, fear of God 
and helpfulness to a neighbor in distress. 

They multiplied and prospered until the War of 
1812 swept from them in one dark day, what had cost 
so much painful effort and self-denial to win. 



117 



THE BURNING OF BUFFALO. 

Picture to yourself the Buffalo of 1812, a settlement 
of about one hundred white-painted wooden houses, 
stretching for the most part along what is now Main 
street, with here and there a more substantial brick or 
stone structure. The forest crowded right up to the 
back doors. In front was an uninterrupted view of 
lake and river. Of stores there were eight, and no de- 
partment store of today carries a greater variety of 
goods; of taverns there were four, since there was 
much travel through the village; of inhabitants there 
were about five hundred ; of schools two. There was 
a weekly paper called the Buffalo Gazette. There were 
no factories, most things being of home manufacture. 
The people were principally farmers and mechanics. 

Their nearest neighbors were the inhabitants of the 
village of Black Rock, and the Seneca Indians on Buf- 
falo Creek. Farther down the Niagara on the Ameri- 
can shore were Fort Schlosser, Lewiston, and Fort Ni- 
agara, which was at the river's mouth. On the Cana- 
dian side Fort Erie was directly opposite Buffalo, the 
village of Chippewa nearly opposite Fort Schlosser and 

118 



THE BURNING OF BUFFALO. 

the heights of Queenston were as now across from Cew- 
iston. Near the mouth of the river was Fort George, 
with the little village of Newark which has since be- 
come Niagara-on-the-Lake. 

This was the Niagara Frontier the peace of which 
was disturbed by the rumor of a second war with Eng- 
land. The rumor became a certainty when, on June 
27, 1 81 2, two boats manned by an armed force started 
out from Fort Erie, followed and captured a schooner 
laden with salt which was sailing from Black Rock up 
the lakes. This hostile act, together with the garrison- 
ing and strengthening of Fort Erie and other Canadian 
points, left no doubt in the minds of the alarmed vil- 
lagers that war was a fart. 

Fear seized the inhabitants on both sides of the river, 
for uppermost in their minds was the question, Which 
side will the Indians take? The horrors of the Revo- 
lution had not yet been forgotten. Indian Agent Eras- 
tus Granger hastened to hold a council with the Senecas 
at which he and Red Jacket advised them to remain neu- 
tral. This they agreed to do. An unsuccessful attempt 
was made by Red Jacket to induce the Mohawks also 
to keep out of the struggle, but they had already allied 
themselves with the British. The Senecas kept their 
promise until August when a rumor was circulated that 

119 



THE BURNING OF BUFFALO. 

Grand Island, their special hunting ground, had been 
seized by the British. They immediately held a council 
at which they declared war against Canada on their 
own account. Red Jacket made a clever speech on this 
occasion. (See Chapter III.) The Gazette of Septem- 
ber mentioned the fact that one hundred and fifty war- 
riors performed a war dance in the streets of Buffalo 
and then offered their services for the defense. 

Meanwhile many families had fled from the fron- 
tier ; but troops were immediately collected at Buffalo, 
Black Rock and Fort Niagara, so the inhabitants were 
reassured and settled down to their usual occupations. 
Except for occasional reports of invasion, and the con- 
stant presence of armed men in her streets, Buffalo felt 
little of the excitement of actual war, during the first 
year. 

However, a thrilling event occurred in October. 
Two British vessels, one the Caledonia, laden with a 
valuable cargo of furs, and the other, the brig Adams, 
which the British had captured at Hull's surrender, 
were brought to anchor under the guns of Fort Erie. 
Farmer's Brother, an aged Seneca chief, together with 
Lieutenant Elliott, a young naval officer who was help- 
ing Perry to get a fleet ready for Lake Erie, planned 

the capture of these boats. Lieutenant Winfield Scott 

120 



THE BURNING OF BUFFALO. 

detailed fifty men to help Elliott. With these, a com- 
pany of seamen, and a few citizens, Elliott crossed the 
river an hour after midnig-ht in three open boats. At 
three o'clock he reached the vessels, boarded them with- 
out arousing* the fort, and in ten minutes had them 
headed for the American shore. Before they could g"et 
out of reach of the fort a lively fire was opened upon 
them. The Caledonia was brought over safely, but the 
Adams ran aground at Squaw Island, where she was 
cannonaded, first by one party then by the other, until 
finally the Americans burned her to the water's edge to 
prevent the British from getting her. The Americans 
had succeeded in bringing off two long guns which did 
good service later. 

Lieutenant Elliott had captured fifty-eight men, and 
had liberated twenty-seven American prisoners on the 
boats. His loss was one killed and four wounded. It 
was a daring exploit cleverly carried out. The British 
retaliated by bombarding Black Rock but did little 
harm. 

In August, Major-General Stephen Van Rensselaer 
came to take command of the American troops on the 
Niagara. It was planned to invade Canada, capturing 
Queenston Heights and Fort George. By October a 

sufficient force had been gathered, and the invasion was 

121 



THE BURNING OF BUFFALO. 

begun on the 13th. The regulars under Captain John 
Wool stormed the heights at Queenston and drove the 
British back. General Brock at Fort George heard the 
firing and hurried to dispute the ground with Wool, 
but was driven off by that brave young commander. 
General Brock was mortally wounded, and General 
Sheaffe now took command. Wool, though twice 
wounded, fought on until relieved by Lieutenant-Col- 
onel Scott. The Americans could not hold the heights 
unless reinforced. To that end General Van Rensse- 
laer tried to bring over the militia stationed at Lewis- 
ton, but they ungenerously refused to leave the state. 
Overwhelmed by Sheaffe's reinforcements and Brant's 
Indians the brave Americans were compelled to surren- 
der. Nine hundred were made prisoners ; one hundred 
and ninety had been killed. In consequence of this dis- 
aster General Van Rensselaer resigned and General 
Smyth took command. 

With much bluster and noise this general collected 
an army of invasion which was never allowed to invade. 
Twice preparations were made and when all was ready, 
without any reason save possibly the cowardice of 
Smyth, the men were disembarked and ordered back to 
camp. Disgusted and angry, both volunteers and mi- 
litia threw away their guns and went home. So un- 

122 



THE BURNING OF BUFFALO. 

popular did Smyth become that, in December, he found 
it convenient to resign. 

The next year nothing of importance happened on 
the Niagara until May. On the 27th of that month 
Commodore Chauncey landed an American force to 
reduce Fort George. Scott and Perry led the attack, 
compelling the British to spike their guns, blow up their 
ammunition and retreat. After serving Black Rock 
with a farewell bombardment Fort Erie followed the 
example of Fort George, leaving the whole Niagara in 
the hands of the Americans. 

The British retreated to Beaver Dams, near St. 
Catharines, where were gathered a large amount of sup- 
plies. In June Colonel Boerstler was sent to destroy 
these and capture the garrison. The brave and ever 
restless Colonel Chapin gathered a company of forty 
mounted riflemen and joined Boerstler's command. 
When near Beaver Dams, a large party of Indians 
under John Brant assailed them ; this and an exagger- 
ated account of the size of the garrison caused Boerstler 
to surrender. Chapin and his men, much to their dis- 
gust were placed in boats to be carried prisoners to 
Kingston. Twenty-six of them in two boats were row- 
ing under guard, the redoubtable doctor and the British 
officer holding an apparently friendly conversation in 

123 



THE BURNING OF BUFFALO. 

the first boat. While telling an amusing story the doc- 
tor managed to signal the other boat to draw near. The 
English lieutenant ordered it back, but Chapin loudly 
commanded his men to come on board. The lieutenant 
attempted to draw his sword ; Chapin instantly struck 
him down. Then the guards were soon overpowered, 
Colonel Chapin took command and headed the boats 
for Fort Niagara, carrying sixteen prisoners with him. 

Having so easily captured Colonel Boerstler, Lieu- 
tenant-Colonel Bishopp left Beaver Dams, determined 
upon a bolder stroke. Learning that the military stores 
at Black Rock were but poorly defended, he resolved to 
capture them. On the night of July loth, he embarked 
four hundred troops at Chippewa; at daybreak they 
landed near Scajaquada Creek. The frightened sen- 
tinel who guarded the bridge, fled without giving the 
signal to the artillerymen in the blockhouse, and these 
slept on while the red-coats marched silently by. When 
Major Adams' encampment was reached, they found 
empty tents, the militia having fled. They spiked the 
guns, fired the blockhouse and barracks, captured a few 
citizens, and then went on to General Porter's house, 
where they sat down to breakfast in fancied security. 

General Porter had fled to Buffalo for aid. On the 

way he met Captain Cummings with one hundred regu- 

124 



THE BURNING OF BUFFALO. 

lars. These were told to await reinforcements which 
Porter galloped away to collect. He was joined by a 
company of volunteers, and the flying militia were met 
and turned back. Farmer's BrotheY and his braves 
came to Porter's aid, and soon he had a force of three 
hundred men. 

The Indians stripped for battle but promised to take 
no scalps. Advancing in three divisions, the Americans 
began a vigorous attack upon the British, who, mean- 
while, had formed in line of battle near Fort Tomp- 
kins.* After a sharp engagement of twenty minutes 
the enemy was routed. Colonel Bishopp was shot. His 
men broke and made for their boats at the landing. 
Their loss was one hundred men, while but three 
Americans were killed and five wounded. The Senecas 
showed themselves brave under fire, and committed no 
atrocities after the fight. 

At the close of 1813 General McClure was left in 
charge of the garrison at Fort George. As the terms 
of enlistment of his men expired they left for home, 
hence the garrison was so reduced in numbers that, 
when news reached McClure that a large British force 
under Colonel Murray was advancing upon Fort 
George, he despaired of holding it, and determined to 
retreat to Fort Niagara just across the river. Un- 

• A tablet on the Niagara Street railroad bams marks the site of Fort Tompkins. It 
was erected by the Niagara Frontier Landmarks Association. 

125 



THE BURNING OF BUFFALO. 

willing to leave such comfortable quarters for the use 
of the enemy, he partially blew up Fort George and 
then committed the gravest of blunders. Giving the 
inhabitants of Newark, the adjoining village, a few 
hours' notice, he set fire to it. One hundred and fifty 
homes were cruelly and needlessly destroyed; nearly 
four hundred people were made homeless. Women and 
children were left without shelter in mid-winter. He 
said, in defense, that the War Department authorized 
the action. 

It was not difficult to foresee the dire consequence of 
such an act. "Retaliation!" was the British cry. "With 
fire and sword !" said Colonel Murray, and immediately 
prepared to punish the Americans. Accordingly, on 
the night of December i8th, he crossed with five hun- 
dred British and Indians, landing at Five-mile Mead- 
ows. Fearing an attack, McClure left one hundred and 
fifty regulars at Fort Niagara and then took himself 
and his men off to Batavia to give his command to Gen- 
eral Hall. Captain Leonard, who was left in command 
at Niagara, had gone to visit his sick wife on the night 
of the attack. It is impossible to explain why no resist- 
ance was made by the garrison which numbered over 
three hundred able men. So vengeful were the British 
that many were put to the sword after surrendering. 

126 



THE BURNING OF BUFFALO. 

A signal gun fired from the fort told the remaining 
British who were waiting at Queenston under the com- 
mand of General Riall, that the fort was taken. He 
immediately brought his force over to Lewiston, where 
they began to slay and burn, while Murray's men did 
the same at Youngstown, a village near the captured 
fort. Riall's Indians spared none. Soon the Ridge 
Road was thronged with flying men, women and chil- 
dren, some carrying household goods, others glad to 
have escaped with their lives. 

At Fort Schlosser a handful of volunteers under 

Lieutenant-Colonel Mallory resisted the enemy for two 
days, but finally gave way. After burning and laying 
waste every home as far as Tonewanta creek the British 
returned to Chippewa. 

Meanwhile General Hall, at Batavia, hastily gath- 
ered what troops he could and marched to Buffalo, ar- 
riving on December 26th. Here he found a motley 
company of about two thousand men, without organi- 
zation or discipline. Many were drafted militia, not to 
be depended upon. General Hall effected what hasty 
organization he could and then waited. 

Intense excitement reigned until the 29th of De- 
cember. The night was dark and it was after mid- 
night when the British, more than one thousand strong, 

127 



THE BURNING OF BUFFALO. 

landed below Scajaquada creek, commanded by Major- 
General Riall. They took possession of the bridge and 
of the Sailors' Battery at that point, and scouts sent out 
from Black Rock to reconnoitre were promptly cap- 
tured. Colonels Warren and Churchill of Black Rock 
were ordered to dislodge them. Colonel Chapin with 
his mounted militia led the way. No sound discovered 
to him their whereabouts until a blinding fire at close 
range dispersed his troops. Warren's men, too, were 
demoralized and fled. Thinking that the enemy's chief 
point of attack would be Buffalo, and that the landing 
of a force at Black Rock was a feint to draw off the de- 
fenses from the former place, General Hall hesitated to 
send a large force down the river. Major Adams was 
therefore despatched with his militia, but these inex- 
perienced soldiers broke and fled, panic-stricken, to 
Buffalo and could not again be rallied. Toward morn- 
ing Colonel Blakeslie was sent with his Ontario county 
militia, while General Hall followed with the remaining 
troops, marching down Niagara street. His force was 
much reduced by desertions and the ineffectual on- 
slaughts of the night. Daylight revealed to him a large 
army under Lieutenant-General Drummond, crossing 
to the American shore. A sharp engagement took place 
near Fort Tompkins. Blakeslie met the English center 

128 



THE BURNING OF BUFFALO. 

at the water's edge and his militia fought with the 
steadiness of veterans. The Americans were shelled 
from both sides of the river and faced a deadly fire in 
front. Mallory of Fort Schlosser was there with his 
volunteers and Granger with his Indians. After stand- 
ing their ground for half an hour and finding them- 
selves greatly outnumbered, the Americans began to 
retreat toward Buffalo. It was not an orderly retreat 
and soon it became a rout. The men fled in squads and 
companies. When they poured into Buffalo, their wives 
and children joined them with such household goods as 
they could cart or carry. Soon all the roads leading 
out of Buffalo were scenes of indescribable confusion 
and terror. Off they hurried in all sorts of convey- 
ances and on foot, crying, "The Indians are coming!" 
Some fled out Seneca street, some took the Batavia 
road, some the ferry, — any way to escape the dreaded 
savages. Main street (Williamsville road) was filled 
with a fleeing procession, when suddenly the cry in 
front, "The Indians are coming!" turned them back 
toward Seneca street. The savages broke through the 
woods into North street (the Guide-board road) and 
came down Main street, howling, shooting, scalping 
and burning. 

Meanwhile two young men named Johnson and 
Efner had mounted one of Perry's nine-pounders on 

129 



.THE BURNING OF BUFFALO. 

cart wheels and trained it down Niagara street, giving 
the advancing foe several rounds. Seeing the hopeless- 
ness of defense, and wishing to give the villagers more 
time to escape. Colonel Chapin held up a flag of truce 
and began a parley with the British commander. He 
offered to surrender on condition that the inhabitants 
be protected and private property spared. General 
Riall accepted these conditions but, finding that Chapin 
was not in command, he ordered the torch applied and 
let the Indians loose upon the defenceless population. 
He found an additional excuse for such conduct in the 
fact that forty invalid soldiers Irom the Williamsville 
hospital were seen marching clown Main street to save 
Buffalo! 

The town was soon in flames. At tnree o'clock the 
destruction was complete, both at Buffalo and at Black 
Rock, and the enemy re-crossed the river. A few 
houses were left standing, and in these the villagers, 
who returned, found shelter, for the season was mid- 
winter and the ground covered with snow. On the 
third day, which was the first of the new year, a party 
of British and Indians returned to finish the work of 
devastation. Now only one house,* that of Mrs. St. 
John on Main street, near Court, a blacksmith shop and 
the stone jail were left standing. Mrs. St. John had 

* A tablet marks the site. It is affixed to the wall of H. A. Meldrums dry goods store. 

130 



THE BURNING OF BUFFALO. 

secured the protection of an officer for herself and her 
house. Her neighbor, Mrs. Lovejoy, unwise enough to 
dispute an Indian's right to carry off her goods, was 
killed and her body burned with her house. 

When the now satisfied British had actually depart- 
ed, a few citizens returned to bury the dead, who num- 
bered upward of forty. Tomahawked and scalped, it 
was hard to recognize them. All those not claimed by 
friends were buried in one grave. 

Nothing living was left in the town save a cat, 
which wandered disconsolately about the smouldering 
ruins of its late home. The following extract is taken 
from an appeal made by the relief committee of Canan- 
daigua : 

"All the settlements in a section forty miles square, 
and which contained more than twelve thousand souls, 
are broken up. The distress produced none but an eye- 
witness can appreciate. Our roads are filled with people 
reduced from competence to the last degree of want and 
sorrow. The fugitives were dispersed under circum- 
stances of so much terror that mothers find themselves 
wandering with strange children. Of the families thus 
separated, all the members can never meet again in this 
life, for the violence that made them beggars has also 
deprived them of their heads." 

131 



THE BURNING OF BUFFALO. 

This committee raised thirteen thousand dollars, be- 
sides clothes and food, for the starving, homeless suf- 
ferers; the Legislature gave fifty thousand dollars; 
Albany and New York City, four thousand dollars; 
the Holland Land Company, two thousand dollars ; and 
Joseph Ellicott, their agent, gave two hundred dollars. 

Contrary to expectation, Buffalo's recovery was 
rapid. In March, Ralph Pomeroy advertised that he 
had rebuilt his hotel and was ready for business. In 
April, 1 814, the Gazette announced that Buffalo was 
rising from her ashes. By May, twenty or more stores, 
taverns and shops were occupied, and many families 
lived in temporary shanties, until houses could be built 
for them. 

Little remains to tell of the war save the fact that 
later in the year Generals Brown, Scott and Porter, 
with their Indian allies again invaded Canada, captured 
Fort Erie, bravely resisted a siege there, and, by a cele- 
brated sortie, entirely redeemed the character which our 
troops lost at the burning of Buffalo. 



132 



THE SIEGE OF FORT ERIE, AND 
A FAMOUS SORTIE. 

The month of July, 1814, was made famous by a 
succession of exciting events on the Niagara Frontier. 
On the 3d, Winfield Scott, who, at the early age of 
thirty, had been made a brigadier-general, assisted by 
Brigadier-General Ripley, took Fort Erie almost with- 
out a blow ; on the 5th, Generals Brown, Scott and Por- 
ter met the British at Chippewa gaining a decided vic- 
tory; on the 25th, Scott met them at Lundy's Lane, 
opposite Niagara Falls, and fought the celebrated bat- 
tle in the dark, covering himself with glory ; in conse- 
quence of these brilliant achievements, both Brown and 
Scott, severely wounded, were slowly recovering at 
Buffalo. 

Now their brave army, much depleted by the great 
losses sustained in the two battles, and deprived of the 
inspiring presence of their gallant commanders, retired 
to Fort Erie, where they were besieged by General Sir 
Gordon Drummond with a force so greatly outnumber- 
ing them, that they could not meet him in the open 

field. 

183 



THE SIEGE OF FORT ERIE, AND 

Fort Erie was not meant to stand a prolonged siege. 
It was slightly constructed of stone and could easily 
have been reduced by a brisk artillery fire. General 
Ripley, who was temporarily in command, at once set 
the men to strengthen it. The Americans took up as 
strong a position as the circumstances would admit. 
On two sides of their fortifications was the forest ; at 
the rear the Niagara served as a protection ; in front, 
in the woods, were the British entrenchments, not five 
hundred yards away, while their camp was at Water- 
loo, distant about two miles. General Gaines, an ex- 
perienced officer, came from Sackett's Harbor to take 
command of the American army during Brown's ill- 
ness, and he lost no time in throwing up earthworks, 
building redoubts, and in every way preparing for a 
long siege. Reinforcements, too, had crossed the river 
by night so that the Americans soon numbered three 
thousand, and things looked more hopeful. 

General Drummond's first act was to send a con- 
siderable force across the river for the purpose of des- 
troying the supplies at Black Rock and Buffalo, and so 
crippling the resources of the besieged garrison. But 
he was cleverly outwitted by the commandant at Fort 
Erie who, anticipating some such action, sent Major 
Morgan with two hundred and fifty riflemen to lie in 

134 



A FAMOUS SORTIE. 

wait. Major Morgan removed the planking of the 
bridge across Scajaquada creek, over which the British 
intended to cross, and then waited near by, behind a 
breastwork of logs. Before dawn, on August 3d, the 
enemy landed just north of the creek, and then boldly 
and confidently dashed forward over the bridge. Their 
impetuous advance was suddenly checked, but not be- 
fore a number had fallen into the creek and were car- 
ried down the Niagara. The struggling mass was 
thrown into worse confusion by the rapid firing of the 
concealed riflemen. After the column had withdrawn 
and recovered, they tried to ford the creek farther east, 
but the watchful Morgan effectually barred their prog- 
ress, and they were compelled to return to the Cana- 
dian shore. This engagement has been called the Bat- 
tle of Conjockety Creek. 

With increased respect for the Americans, General 
Drummond determined to send for large guns to bom- 
bard the fort before making an assault. This gave our 
men more time to strengthen their defenses, and they 
went to work with a will. The enemy was not idle. 
During the day batteries were planted in the woods and 
at night the trees were cut away in front of them so that 
the guns might be trained upon the fort. However, 
when the first two were finished they were found to be 

1S5 



THE SIEGE OE FORT ERIE, AND 

too far away to inflict much harm. Skirmish parties 
frequently sallied out from both lines and many men 
were killed before the actual siege began. Among these 
was the gallant Morgan, the hero of Conjockety. 

On the thirteenth, the storm of shot and shell began. 
For two days General Drummond kept up a fierce can- 
nonading, and our fort replied. A shell falling within 
the fort exploded a magazine, and this called forth loud 
cheering from the British lines, for they thought that a 
serious breach had been made. General Gaines felt sure 
from this and other signs that a night assault would be 
attempted ; therefore, when at nightfall the artillery fire 
suddenly ceased, he ordered a third of the men to re- 
main on duty while the rest slept upon their arms. The 
gunners had orders to be prepared, so they loaded their 
guns to the mouth with grape shot and canister, and 
hung bags of shot and dark lanterns conveniently near. 
Then a hundred men under Lieutenant Belknap were 
sent out on picket duty, and the garrison waited. 

To understand what followed, a brief description of 

the American fortifications will be necessary. The fort 

originally had two bastions, and two more had been 

added by the Americans. Earthworks ran from the 

fort westward to an eminence called Snake Hill, upon 

which Towson's battery had been planted. Another 

136 



A FAMOUS SORTIE. 

line ran to the right ending at Douglass' Battery, which 
was near the river. The extreme left and right were 
singled out for the enemy's first attack, because they 
were thought weakest ; but the unwelcome visitors had 
reckoned without their hosts, who had prepared a warm 
reception. 

Rain had fallen all day and the night was inky. The 
vigilant gviard heard no sound until about two o'clock 
in the morning, when Lieutenant Belknap thought he 
distinguished the muffled tread of feet, and presently he 
saw a moving column in the darkness. He fired a sig- 
nal, and then fell back slowly with his men toward the 
fort, holding the enemy in check in order to give the 
gunners time to prime their pieces. Expecting to sur- 
prise a sleeping garrison the British had not fired a shot, 
having received orders to remove their flints and depend 
on their bayonets only. Their confusion may be im- 
agined when, as they approached, Towson's Battery 
and Ripley's Infantry belched out a sheet of flame that 
lighted up the night so that Towson's Battery became 
known as "Towson's Lighthouse." They recoiled, but 
charged again and again. Then some waded through 
the river to attack the rear, but Ripley's Twenty-first 

Regiment was ready and the river removed them as 

137 



,THE SIEGE OF FORT ERIE, AND 

fast as they fell. Not able to approach within bayonet 
distance, the remainder retired. 

During this charge a second column was thrown 
against Douglass' Battery at our right. They, too, 
were repulsed, leaving their leader and one-third of 
their men on the field. A third column under Lieuten- 
ant-Colonel Drummond moved directly upon the fort 
carrying scaling-ladders. Though repulsed many 
times they returned with stubborn courage, and at last, 
favored by the smoke and darkness, crept close to the 
walls, planted their ladders and climbed into the north 
bastion. Crying, "No quarter!" they savagely bayo- 
neted the gunners. When Lieutenant McDonough, 
after being stabbed, asked for quarter, Drummond bru- 
tally shot him. Punishment fell speedily; a few min- 
utes later Drummond was himself bayoneted and shot. 

The guns of the captured bastion were now turned 
against the fort and all efforts to dislodge the enemy 
were futile, though bravely and even recklessly made. 
Indian allies of the British stood ready to rush in and 
massacre as soon as a breach should be made. Just at 
this critical moment a wonderful thing happened. 
With a deafening roar, like thunder, the whole bastion 
shot high into the air. The magazine under the plat- 
form had exploded and carried with it nearly a whole 

188 



A FAMOUS SORTIE. 

regiment of red-coats. Some historians think it was 
accidental; others believe that the dying McDonough 
threw a lighted fuse into the magazine, preferring to 
die in this way in order to save the fort. Whatever 
the cause, the effect was appalling, and the remnant of 
the besiegers retired, leaving their dead piled high 
among the debris. 

Across the river, all through the night, anxious 
watchers lined the shore, listening to the terrific artil- 
lery battle and watching the flash of cannon. The ex- 
plosion might mean disaster to our arms, thought they ; 
but when morning broke, a boat approached with the 
glad tidings of victory. The Americans lost about a 
hundred men, the British, nearly a thousand. 

Both forces spent the following month in strength- 
ening their position and in securing reinforcements, 
bo apprehensive were the Americans of another attack 
that they slept upon their arms with bayonets fixed. 
Food, too, was very poor and hard to obtain, the whole 
Niagara being still a desolate waste; hence, many of 
our men were soon unfit for duty. Realizing the criti- 
cal condition of the besieged, and in answer to appeals 
from Generals Brown and Gaines, the militia of the 
western counties of the state were called out by the 
governor. When they arrived at the ruins of Buffalo, 

139 



HTHE SIEGE OF FORT ERIE, AND 

General Porter made an address which caused about 
fifteen hundred to volunteer to cross the river under 
his command and raise the siege. They went into camp 
near Towson's battery on the tenth of September. 

The British had not ceased to throw shells, hot shot 
and rockets into the fort, keeping things lively, so that 
fatigue duty had become very dangerous. One shell so 
injured General Gaines that he had to be removed to 
Buffalo, and General Brown, though far from well, 
again took command. 

The condition of the enemy was worse, if possible, 
than our own. Rain fell in torrents and their camp 
became a marsh. Typhoid fever broke out among 
them and they, like the Americans, were threatened 
with scarcity of food. They decided, therefore, to 
hasten matters and end the siege before winter. Since 
Battery Number One and Battery Number Two, al- 
ready planted, were so ineffective, they began to erect 
Battery Number Three within five hundred yards of 
our lines. This, after its long guns were put into posi- 
tion, was expected to make short work of the fort. Our 
men dreaded the moment of its completion greatly and 
tried to hinder its construction which was carried on 
chiefly after dark. One brave attempt was made by 
Major Brook who with two friends crept through the 

140 



A FAMOUS SORTIE. 

enemy's picket line one night, and hung a lantern upon 
a tree in direct line with the battery to serve as a target 
for our gunners. Great was the amazement of the 
British when our guns opened fire upon them in the 
darkness. It was some time before they discovered the 
guiding light. 

This was only a temporary device; but when the 
battery was nearly ready Generals Brown and Porter 
were also ready with the plan of a sortie so daring that 
it, if successfully carried out, would prove to be the 
most brilliant military achievement of the war on the 
Niagara. The plan was this : General Porter with his 
volunteers and Indians was to make a wide detour 
through the woods to the left, and fall upon Battery 
Number Three and destroy it; while General James 
Miller was to march to the right and destroy Battery 
Number Two. The two forces were then to co-operate 
in the destruction of Battery Number One, spike all 
guns and roughly handle the single brigade which the 
British usually left on duty. 

Whether General Porter deserves the credit of plan- 
ning this sortie or not, he certainly carried it out most 
successfully. Roads were cut on the i6th so that the 
marshes might be avoided. The morning of the 17th 

was most unpleasant; but when on parade, the men 

141 



THE SIEGE OF FORT ERIE 

were told of the plan, and an account of the victories at 
Plattsburg and Lake Champlain was read to them, 
their enthusiasm was infectious. Red strips of cloth 
were used as headgear, since none of the volunteers 
was uniformed and a distinguishing mark was needed. 
A heavy thunderstorm coming on in the afternoon fa- 
vored the Americans so that they approached almost 
within pr^tol shot of the enemy without being discov- 
ered. With a rush and a shout that could be heard at 
Buffalo, they drove the astonished British back and in 
half an hour the battery was disabled and its long guns 
spiked. Miller captured Battery Number One, and in 
forty minutes the British works were in our hands. 
Just then reinforcements arrived, the British rallied, 
and our troops wisely retreated. 

Fort Erie was saved. So complete was Drum- 
mond's discouragement that he folded his tents and 
stole away to Chippewa. Our only grief was that 
among our slain were the gallant officers, General Da- 
vis and Lieutenant-Colonel Wood. In November the 
fort was blown up and the garrison returned to Buf- 
falo. Congress awarded medals to both Brown and 
Porter. 

This sortie was the last and most memorable event 

of the war on the Niagara Frontier. 

142 



THE HERO OF LAKE ERIE. 

The War of 1 812 is famous in history for the many 
naval victories won by our brave seamen. It was not 
on land but upon the water that the United States con- 
quered in the second war with England. 

One of the great naval victories won in 181 3 was 
the battle of Lake Erie. The hero of this engagement 
was Captain Oliver Hazard Perry, a young man only 
twenty-seven years old. He had received his early 
training on his father's vessel the U. S. S. General 
Greene, cruising in the West Indies during the San Do- 
mingo trouble, and had later seen service in the Tripoli- 
tan war, which was truly a school for the training of 
heroes. 

During the first year of the war (1812), Perry was 

stationed at Newport, R. I. Hearing that Commodore 

Chauncey was gathering a naval force upon the Great 

Lakes, where all the fighting appeared to be taking 

place, he asked to be allowed to serve under Chauncey. 

That officer was glad to get so spirited a young man, 

and immediately assigned to him the command of the 

fleet on Lake Erie, — ^a fleet that had, most of it, yet to 

143 



THE HERO OF LAKE ERIE. 

be constructed. There were a few boats at Black Rock, 
among which was the brig Caledonia, captured by 
Lieutenant Elliott at Fort Erie, but these were block- 
aded by the British batteries across the river. 

The building of Perry's fleet was really a wonder. 
Carpenters, seamen, machinery, sails, gnns, etc., had to 
be sent from New York to Presque Isle (Erie, Pa.) 
where the ships were building, and there were no rail- 
roads and no canal to make the transportation easier. 

Perry arrived in Buffalo in March, 1813, having 
made the journey from Newport by sleigh. In May he 
hurried from his ship-yard at Presque Isle to co-operate 
with General Scott in the capture of Forts George and 
Erie. The fall of these forts raised the blockade and 
the boats were tracked out of Black Rock harbor to the 
large fine harbor at Erie, where the rest of the fleet was 
being made ready. 

By the most strenuous exertions, two brigs of 
twenty tons, a number of gunboats and schooners were 
built and equipped. By August Perry's flotilla was 
ready for sailing, but just outside the harbor waited 
the English fleet under Commodore Barclay, one of 
Nelson's veterans ; and across the harbor's mouth was 
a bar only seven feet under water, which, while it pre- 
vented the British from coming in and destroying the 

144 



THE HERO OF LAKE ERIE. 

fleet before it was completed, also prevented Perry 
from taking his two largest vessels out into the lake. 
Perry now had a fleet of nine vessels, carrjang fifty- 
five guns and about four hundred sixteen men. Bar- 
clay had six ships carrying sixty-three guns and about 
four hundred forty men ; but Barclay had the advan- 
tage in long guns as will be seen later. 

Our hero felt sure that if he could but lighten his 
ships so as to get out of the harbor he could capture 
Barclay and his fleet in a day or two; but Barclay 
watched him like a cat and Perry waited. Suddenly, 
to Perry's astonishment and relief, the British squad- 
ron sailed away across the lake. It was learned that 
Commodore Barclay had received an invitation to dine 
with friends on Sunday, and he had taken his fleet with 
him. The water was smooth, Perry lost no time. 
Beaching the guns of the largest brig, the Lawrence, 
he sunk two scows, one on each side of her, and then 
passing great beams through her portholes, rested the 
ends upon the scows, thus making "camels" of them. 
The scows were then pumped out, and as they rose, 
they lifted the Lawrence with them, but not high 
enough to carry her over the bar. Again the scows 
were sunk, but this time the beam ends were blocked 
high enough to lift the brig free. Through the whole 

145 



THE HERO OF LAKE ERIE. 

night the crews labored; by morning the Lawrence 
floated over the bar, followed by the rest of the fleet, 
just as Barclay again appeared on the scene. The 
American gunboats kept him off until the guns of the 
Lazvrence could be put into place. Then she turned 
and gave him a broadside from her carronades that 
made him change his mind and sail away up the lake. 
Apparently he was not ready for battle. 

Perry hunted the British for a month but it was not 
until September loth, while at Put-in Bay, that he 
sighted them again. Barclay was now ready for a 
battle — the battle which was to determine who should 
have the mastery of the Lakes. 

Captain Perry at once put out to meet him. The 
day was serene, — a perfect autumn day with a light 
breeze which favored our ships because of their posi- 
tion. The British ships were formed in battle line, 
their bands playing "Britannia, rule the waves !" After 
Perry had drawn up his ships in line, he ran a flag up 
to the masthead of the Lawrence, which bore the words 
of the brave Captain Lawrence, "Don't give up the 
ship!" This was the signal for the attack. It was 
greeted with cheers from every ship. Then Perry bore 
down upon the Detroit with his flagship the Lawrence. 

The engagement began about noon, when the De- 
146 



THE HERO OF LAKE ERIE. 

troit, Commodore Barclay's flagship, sent a 24-poimder 
crashing into the Lawrence. Sailing-master Stephen 
Champlin, a youth of twenty-four, promptly replied 
with the 32-pounder of the Scorpion. It was Perry'3 
plan to have the Niagara engage the Queen Charlotte 
while he engaged the Detroit. The Scorpion, Ariel, 
Caledonia, Somers, Porcupine, Tigress and Tripp were 
to pour their fire into the Chippeway, Hunter, Lady 
Prevost and Little Belt. For half an hour the fighting 
was at long range and the English had the advantage 
because of their superior long gtins. Perry, therefore, 
tried to get near enough to use his carronades. For 
some unexplained reason Captain Elliott kept the Ni- 
agara well out of the fray, and so the British ships 
turned their attention to the Lazvrence, raking her with 
thirty-two long guns for nearly two hours. At last 
Captain Elliott brought the Niagara into line but the 
Lawrence was then past help and almost unmanageable. 
Her hull was shattered, her spars were gone, her guns 
dismounted and her gunners all dead. Only fourteen 
of her crew were left. Her first lieutenant, Yarnall, 
fought on alone though thrice wounded. Surgeons 
and chaplain helped Perry fire the last gun. 

There was nothing to do but to haul down the flag, 
and the British cheered wildly, thinking the battle won. 

X47 



THE HERO OF LAKE ERIE. 

But they cheered too soon. When the smoke lifted, 
they saw Perry standing up in the bow of a row boat, 
with his flag wrapped round him, while four oarsmen 
were rowing him rapidly toward the Niagara. He 
passed within pistol shot of the English ships and his 
escape was a miracle, for the oars were splintered, the 
shot spattered about him like hail, and the water boiled 
with the force of the missiles, covering him with spray ; 
yet he reached the Niagara safely. 

He at once sent Captain Elliott to all the American 
ships in a boat, with orders to fight at close range 
with grape and canister. Then he hoisted his flag and 
carried the Niagara right through the British line, 
raking the six vessels with broadsides right and left. 
Two of the English ships fouled and Perry promptly 
luffed across their bows, raking them again. Barclay 
was badly wounded and could not again bring his now 
disabled vessel into action. The Queen Charlotte was 
in as bad a condition and struck her colors first ; three 
others followed; but the Chippeivay and Little Belt 
made an attempt to escape. Stephen Champlin, of the 
Scorpion, who fired the first shot, and Lieutenant 
Holdup of the Tripp, showed further gallantry by pur- 
suing and capturing the runaways. 

Perr)^ returned to the Lawrence to receive the 
148 



THE HERO OF LAKE ERIE. 

swords of the English commanders. A feeble cheer 
greeted him when he stepped aboard his flagship. The 
cockpit showed a fearful scene of carnage, and Perry's 
heart was sad even while he penned the triumphant 
message to Harrison, "We have met the enemy and 
they are ours." 

This victory gave the United States the mastery of 
the Lakes, prevented an Indian invasion, and led to the 
surrender of Detroit and Michigan. Congress voted 
Perry a gold medal and promoted him to the command 
of the frigate Java. 

While we honor him for his bravery let us not for- 
get the nameless heroes who gave up life and limb to 
make this victory possible. 



149 



THE ERIE CANAL. 

It was in the summer of 1810 that Dewitt Clinton 
with six other Canal Commissioners traveled across 
New York state to find the best route for the Erie 
Canal. Mr, Clinton's party started from Albany, July 
3d, going by water from Schenectady to Geneva, and 
finishing the journey to Buffalo by land, arriving 
August 4th, having taken thirty-two days to make a 
trip that is now made in six hours ! 

While on the way Mr. Clinton kept an interesting 
journal some extracts from which will show you the 
mode of travel, the nature of the country, and the con- 
ditions of trade before the day of railroads or canals. 
He writes as follows : 

"July 3d. We set out in carriages for Schenectady, 
where we found that Mr. Eddy had neglected to give 
directions about providing boats and that Mr. Walton, 
the undertaker, who is extensively engaged in trans- 
porting commodities and merchandise up and down the 
river, had notice of our wishes only yesterday. . . . 
He had purchased a batteau and had hired another for 

our baggage. It being necessary to caulk and paint the 

160 



THE ERIE CANAt. 

boats, to erect an awning for our protection against 
rain and sun, and to prepare a new set of sails, we had 
no very sanguine hope of gratifying our earnest desire 
to depart in the morning. 

July 4th. On consulting with Mr. Walton, he in- 
formed us that this being a day of great festivity, it 
would be almost impracticable to drag the men away. 
. . . We therefore pressed the workmen with great 
assiduity, and embarked at four o'clock in the after- 
noon. Our boat was covered with a handsome awning 
and curtains, and well provided with seats. The Com- 
missioners who embarked with me were Simeon 
Dewitt, Thomas Eddy and Peter B. Porter [of Black 
Rock] , Gouverneur Morris and Stephen Van Rensse- 
laer agreed to make the jaunt by land. 

A crowd of people attended us, and gave three part- 
ing cheers. The wind was fair, and with our handsome 
awning, flags flying and large sail, followed by another 
boat, we made no disreputable appearance. We dis- 
covered that our mast was too high, and our boat being 
without ballast, we were not well calculated to encoun- 
ter heavy and sudden gusts. These boats are not safe 
for lake navigation, although they frequently venture. 
The river [Mohawk] was uncommonly low. Goods to 
the value of fifty thousand dollars were detained in the 

151 



THE ERIE CANAL. 

warehouses on account of the difficulty of transporta- 
tion. After saiHng a couple of miles a bend of the 
river brought the wind in our faces. Our men took to 
their poles, and pushed us up against a rapid current, 
with great dexterity and great muscular exertion. The 
approach of evening, and the necessity of sending back 
to Schenectady for some things that were left, induced 
us to come to for the night, at Willard's tavern, three 
miles from the place of departure. 

July 5th. We rose with the sun but were detained 
until nine o'clock. In the course of the day we passed 
three boats and a raft. The general run to Utica and 
return is nine days. . . . Between fifteen and six- 
teen miles from Schenectady we passed the first settle- 
ment made by Sir William Johnson in this country. 

• • • 

We dined on board the boat, and, after a hard day's 
work, arrived at Cook's tavern. The wind was vio- 
lently adverse, and the rapids frequent and impetuous. 
The Morris [baggage boat] staid about a mile behind, 
which was no favorable indication." 

The defection of the Morris must have been a seri- 
ous inconvenience to the distinguished travelers since 
it contained a ton and a half of baggage and provisions, 

162 



THE ERIE CANAU. 

together with a mattress, a blanket and a pillow for 
each Commissioner. 

The journal g-oes on to tell that they breakfasted at 
a log- house, walked around Kater's rapids to lighten 
their boats, slept four in a room at the tavern and 
found flies in their custard! They shot a bittern, 
speared a turtle, and some fish, intending to cook a meal 
on shore, but a violent thunderstorm made them sit 
under their awning and eat a cold luncheon instead. 

On the eighth they reached Little Falls, which Mr. 
Clinton describes as a village containing thirty or forty 
houses, several stores and a church ; fully as large and 
flourishing a place as others which have long since far 
outstripped it in size. The falls in the river afforded 
good mill sites, probably the cause of the settlement. 
Here also began a system of short canals around the 
falls which the Inland Lock Navigation Co. had built, 
extending as far west as Rome. The company's in- 
come in one year was sixteen thousand dollars in lock- 
age at Little Falls alone. One boat which they met had 
paid sixteen dollars and a half at Rome where it passed 
through two locks. The toll-taker estimated that a 
million dollars worth of produce and manufactured 
goods annually passed through these locks. Such facts 

as these must have proved to the Commissioners, had 

153 



THE ERIE CANAL. 

they needed such proof, how valuable to the people 
would be a continuous canal with reasonable charges. 

At Utica Mr. Clinton found that produce was being 
carried by land from Utica to Albany for eight shil- 
lings per one hundred pounds, while by water the 
charges were six shillings. Farmers paid their debts 
to merchants by conveying goods for them in seasons 
when teams were not needed on the farm. Utica was 
reached on July 9th, and found to be a flourishing vil- 
lage, containing three hundred houses, a bank, several 
churches and a post office. There were about sixteen 
hundred inhabitants, and two newspapers flourished 
there. Double building lots which sold at from four 
hundred to eight hundred dollars were considered ex- 
travagantly high. Mr. Clinton thought some of the 
houses uncommonly elegant. A cheesemaker was 
visited who cleared upwards of a thousand dollars a 
year — b. fabulous sum in those times. 

Farther on, they came to a cotton spinning factory. 
Rome, they found, contained seventy houses and had a 
canal one and three-fourths miles long around the falls. 
Mr. Clinton was told that the freshets sweep away all 
the improvements made by the Canal Company. The 
Commissioners dined in "a large double three-story 

frame building called the Hotel 1" At Oneida lake they 

154 



THE ERIE CANAIv. 

found deer, salmon and bass plentiful, but the water 
was full of fever germs. Near Salina (Syracuse) the 
sounds, odors and vermin of the tavern drove them to 
sleep in a tent in the woods. Here the salt boats had to 
unload half their cargoes in order to get over the 
rapids, and rafts were detained four weeks by low 
water. 

They arrived at the Falls of Oswego July i6th. 
There was a carrying place of a mile here. At the 
landings were about fifteen thousand barrels of salt. 
Carriage was one shillincf a barrel. Loaded boats 
could not safely descend the falls, but light ones were 
conducted over for one dollar. The commerce in salt 
was great, the wharves being covered with barrels of 
it. In 1808 nineteen thousand barrels were shipped, 
and three thousand were not carried for want of ves- 
sels. They told Mr. Clinton that thirty thousand bar- 
rels would be sent to Canada that year. Salt sold for 
one dollar and a half at Salina, but cost nine dollars 
when it reached Pittsburg because transportation was 
so slow and expensive, and could be carried on only 
six months in the year. /? 

From Oswego the party continued to Geneva by 
way of Oswego and Seneca rivers, passing through the 

155 



THE ERIE CANAL. 

miasms of Cayuga marsh, walking around falls, lodg- 
ing in various uncomfortable taverns, and suffering the 
attacks of fleas, musquitoes and other vermin. 

At Geneva they sold their boat and made the re- 
mainder of the journey by wagon. Genesee Falls 
(Rochester) they found to be a great business center, 
it having that season sent to Montreal one thousand 
barrels of flour, the same of pork and potash, and more 
than one hundred thousand staves. The transportation 
charges on the staves was ninety dollars a thousand — 
nine cents apiece ! 

Striking the Ridge Road at the Genesee, they fol- 
lowed it to Lewiston. Here they discovered that the 
only means of transportation around the falls of Niag- 
ara was a three-yoke ox-team, which made but one trip 
a day. When we read this we are not surprised to 
learn, also, that the price of salt was raised from three 
and one-half dollars at Lewiston to four and one-half 
dollars at Black Rock. Nor do we wonder that this 
article served in the place of money for the payment of 
debts. 

Now the party was nearing Buffalo and Mr. Clin- 
ton's journal concludes with the following entry : 

"Aug. 4th. At Black Rock we saw a great numbei 

156 



THE ERIE CANAL. 

of barrels of salt and several square-rigged vessels, and 
had a beautiful view of Lake Erie. 

We arrived in the evening at Buffalo or New Am- 
sterdam, and put up at Landon's tavern, where we 
were indifferently accommodated. 

Aug. 5th. Buffalo village contains from thirty to 
forty houses, the court-house of Niagara county, built 
by the Holland Land Company, several stores and tav- 
erns and a post office. It is a place of great resort. All 
persons that travel to the western states and Ohio from 
the eastern states and all that visit the Falls of Niagara, 
come this way. A half-acre lot sells for from one hun- 
dred to two hundred fifty dollars. Buffalo Creek runs 
in from the east between the village and the lake. It 
is a deep stream, ten rods wide, and has a large bar at 
its mouth. It is navigable for five miles. There are 

five lawyers and no church in the village 

The great need in the land of the Holland Company is 
water. In the village of Buffalo, the whole village is 
supplied by hogsheads from a spring. We saw several 
dry mills. The population has doubled in a year. . . 
We rode on the beach of the lake to Black Rock. A 
ferry and tavern are kept at the upper landing and a 
store by Porter, Barton & Co. . . . The country 

is well cultivated and settled. We passed a store with 

157 



THE ERIE CANAL. 

three inscriptions on its sign, in English, French and 
German. Store, in English; Boutique, in French. 
This indicates the nationality of the settlers in its vi- 
cinity. ... At Black Rock we left Mr. Geddes 
to commence his surveys, and parted from Colonel Por- 
ter with great regret." 

Such were the difficulties of travel and transporta- 
tion between the Great Lakes and the Atlantic seaboard. 
All trade was with Montreal or Baltimore, since these 
places were best reached by water. The inducements 
to settle in the interior of the state or of opening the 
great West, were small, as the settlers had no market 
for their wares. 

As early as 1800, Gouverneur Morris and others had 
spoken of a waterway to the Great Lakes, and in 1807 
a series of essays were written by Jesse Hawley for the 
Genesee Messenger, in which he described a canal from 
Buffalo to Utica, and estimated the cost, thus familiar- 
izing people with the thought. Nature had cut a series 
of waterways and valleys to indicate the best route; 
James Geddes* surveyed it in 1809; and now the 
Canal Commissioners, having traveled over the route, 
reported their approval of it, and suggested to the Leg- 
islature that New York get aid from Congress to dig 

* He received the small sum of six hundred dollars for the survey. 

15a 



THE ERIE CANAL. 

this canal, which, they saw, would benefit the whole 
nation. 

President Madison and Congress did not see its 
benefit so clearly, therefore, in 1812, it was decided that 
New York should borrow money from Europe and 
build the canal alone. Just then the second war with 
England broke out and New York State had other 
things to think of. When the war was over (1815)' 
Dewitt Clinton, to whom most credit is due for the con- 
struction of the Erie Canal, began a lively agitation of 
the subject. He met with much opposition, especially 
in New York city. Clinton's Memorial to the Legisla- 
ture called forth all manner of abuse. It was said that 
Clinton's "Big Ditch" would be filled with "the tears of 
posterity," and that his idea was about as sane as a 
proposition to build a canal to the moon. He perse- 
vered, however, and at last a bill was passed by the 
Legislature, ordering the construction of the canal. 

It was begun at Rome, July 4th, 181 7, amid great 
rejoicing, for the people along the route knew its value 
to them. While cannon boomed and people cheered, 
Judge Richardson, the first contractor, broke ground 
for the middle section, which was to extend from Utica 
westward to Montezuma, near Cayuga lake. Three 
years later this part was finished and put to use. In 

159 



THE ERIE CANAL. 

gratitude for his efforts the people of the state elected 
Dewitt Clinton governor. Now the enthusiasm spread 
and the eastern section was begfun. Wealthy farmers 
worked on the canal at seventy-five cents a day, and 
were glad to help the good work forward. Convicts 
were turned out of prisons and set to digging. 

In 1823 the Albany section was finished, and there 
was a great celebration at its opening ; but the hardest 
part, the western section, was still to be done. The 
Buffalo end was begun August, 1823, near the Com- 
mercial street bridge. Here, too, the ground was 
broken to the strains of music and the rattle of drums, 
while cannon roared their approval. In October, 1825, 
the last and most difficult part was finished, namely, 
the cutting of the Lockport ridge. 

On the morning of October 26th, 1825, the people 
of the state were notified that their canal was com- 
pleted. There was in those days no telegraph nor other 
means by which news could be conveyed rapidly; but 
an ingenious device had been arranged for carrying 
this joyful intelligence. The cannon which had won 
Perry's famous victory on Lake Erie, were made to 
celebrate this great peace-victory. Guns had been 
placed along the tow-path and down the Hudson, at 

such distances apart that they could be fired one after 

160 



THE ERIE CANAU 

another, at intervals of one minute. Thus, the glad 
messag-e was sent from Buffalo at ten o'clock in the 
morning by the firing of a great 32-pounder on the 
Terrace, and gun after gun took it up, until it reached 
the forts in New York Harbor, which boomed it clear 
out to Sandy Hook, where rolls the g^reat Atlantic. 
The return salute reached Buffalo three hours later, 
having traveled eleven hundred miles. 

The rejoicing which followed was such as had never 
before been known in the history of New York State. 
Some extracts from the newspapers of the day will 
give you an idea of the feelings of the people on this 
great occasion: 

Rochester Telegraph, Oct. 18, 1825 : 

"The wedding of the waters of Lake Erie with 
those of the Hudson is to be solemnized on the 26th 
inst., and we are happy to observe that the marriage 
feasts are making ready in every part of the state. A 
banquet will be prepared in our own village, and ser- 
vants have gone forth to invite many guests. As the 
conclusion of the gigantic work draws near, the en- 
thusiasm of the public spreads far and wide. Loud 
and deep will be the shouts of triumph which rend the 
air when the signal g^n announces the work com- 
pleted." 

.161 



THE ERIE CANAi;. 

From the New York Commercial Advertiser, Oct. 
26, 1825 : 

"At twenty minutes past eleven o'clock this morn- 
ing the joyful intelligence was proclaimed to our citi- 
zens, by the roar of artillery, that the great, the gigan- 
tic work of uniting the upper lakes with the ocean was 
completed; and exactly an hour and twenty minutes 
before, the first boat from Lake Erie had entered the 
canal and commenced its voyage to New York. 

This proud intelligence having been communicated 
in the same manner to Sandy Hook and notice of its 
reception returned to the City, the return salute was 
commenced at Fort Lafayette by a national salute at 
twenty-two minutes past eleven o'clock, and the sounds 
of our rejoicing sent roaring and echoing along the 
mountains and among the Highlands back to Buffalo 
where it was doubtless received before this paper went 
to press." 

In Colden's Memoir which was published in honor 
of the event we read this account : 

"The completion of the Erie Canal was announced 
to us by the sound of cannon on the 26th of last month, 
and to-morrow we shall witness the arrival of a Canal 
boat from Buffalo, after an internal navigation of five 
hundred thirteen miles. She will have passed three 

162 



THE ERIE CANAU. 

hundred sixty-three miles on one continued, uninter- 
rupted artificial canal, forty feet wide on the surface, 
twenty-eight at the bottom, with four feet depth of 
water. She will have passed through eighty-three 
locks, built of massive stone . . . and she will, 
when she reaches Albany, have descended five hundred 
fifty-five feet; but her ascent and her descent in the 
course of her voyage will have been six hundred sixty- 
two feet." 

But the grand salute of signal guns was by no 
means the only celebration of the opening of the great 
waterway. On that famous twenty-sixth of October 
the little village of Buffalo was a busy place. First 
there was a procession on Main street, with Governor 
Clinton, the Lieutenant-Governor and other distin- 
guished men of the state in carriages. Then they all 
marched to the canal where a little flotilla of canal boats 
waited to convey the governor and his party from Lake 
Erie to the Atlantic. Just as the boats were ready to 
start the first gun of the grand salute just described, 
was fired from the Terrace. The boats glided away 
eastward and Buffalo continued to celebrate, listening 
to an oration by Sheldon Smith and ending with a 

great dinner and ball at the Eagle tavern. 

163 



THE ERIE CANAL. 

Meanwhile Governor Clinton and his party were 
traveling toward New York in the boat Seneca Chief, 
drawn by four gaily dressed gray horses. There were 
three other boats in the little fleet. One was called 
Noah's Ark because it carried all sorts of animals in 
pairs. In this boat were also two Indian boys. Two 
kegs of Lake Erie water were taken to be poured into 
the Atlantic with appropriate ceremonies, in token that 
communication was opened between the Lakes and the 
ocean. Dr. Mitchell had succeeded in securing bottles 
of water from the chief rivers of Europe, Asia, Africa 
and South America, to pour in, to signify a world-wide 
commerce. The home industries of the West were 
represented by potashes from Detroit, Sandusky, Erie 
and Buffalo. 

Down the long canal went the flotilla stopping at 
every village on the way and everywhere warmly re- 
ceived. When it passed through the locks at Lockport, 
the earth trembled with the discharge of artillery and 
the blasting of rock. At Rochester the Lion of the 
West carrying wolves, foxes, raccoons, butter, apples, 
pails and brooms, joined the flotilla. At Utica all on 
board the boats landed and attended church, where a 
thanksgiving service was held. 

164 



THE ERIE CANAL. 

Great preparations had been made at Albany. Here 
a fleet was ready to replace the gray horses and tow the 
boats down the river. They reached New York No- 
vember second. The celebration in the metropolis al- 
most passed description. There was a great aquatic 
parade with miles of boats in line. This immense fleet 
proceeded to Sandy Hook, the Setieca Chief receiving 
several national salutes on the way. Even the British 
vessels in the harbor saluted her. The bells of the city 
were rung for an hour, morning, noon and night. 

At Sandy Hook, surrounded by a fleet three miles 
in circumference. Governor Clinton mingled the waters 
of Lake Erie with those of the ocean, speaking as fol- 
lows : 

"The solemnity at this place on the first arrival of 
vessels from Lake Erie is intended to indicate and com- 
memorate the navigable communication which has been 
accomplished between our Mediterranean seas and the 
Atlantic Ocean, in about eight years to the extent of 
more than four hundred twenty-five miles by the wis- 
dom, public spirit and energy of the people of the State 
of New York ; and may the God of the Heaven and of 
the Earth smile most propitiously on this work and 
render it subservient to the best interests of the human 

race." 

166 



THE ERIE CANAi;. 

Then came a land procession in which all the trades 
and occupations were represented, and the day closed 
with a brilliant illumination and fireworks. 

General Lafayette was not forgotten although he 
was far away. A bottle of the water from the casks 
was sent him as a compliment. 

On the return trip Judge Wilkinson of Buffalo 
brought back a cask of ocean water, which he poured 
into Lake Erie, November 23d, with appropriate cere- 
monies, the grand celebration thus ending nearly a 
month after it began. 

Now, as to the greatness of the undertaking. It 
should be remembered that the canal was dug through 
three hundred sixty miles of wild country where deer 
and wolves still roamed and settlers were few and poor. 
Eighty-three stone locks each fifteen feet wide and 
ninety feet long, were built for lifting the boats around 
the falls and rapids of which Mr. Clinton spoke in his 
journal. Aqueducts to the extent of one thousand six 
hundred fifty feet were thrown across rivers, and they 
rested on stone arches. The Cayuga marshes were dug 
through, reeking with typhus, where half the men fell 
ill. In some places the canal was built through the 
rivers. Near Rochester an embankment seventy feet 

high and a mile long was built, and near Lockport a 

166 



THE ERIE CANAi;. 

great ridge, three miles of solid rock, thirty feet deep, 
had to be pierced. Remembering these difficulties it is 
astonishing that the work was accomplished in eight 
years and at a cost of only a little over seven and one- 
half million dollars. 

A canal fund was created by placing a tax on salt, 
on lotteries, on auction sales, on lands lying along the 
canal, and on passengers traveling on the Hudson. 
Some of these taxes were never collected, but the salt 
industry, which was so greatly benefited, paid the 
major part of the cost of the canal. 

There was a long and fierce debate on the question 
whether the western terminus of the canal should be at 
Buffalo or at Black Rock. Buffalo had no harbor, a 
sandbar obstructing the mouth of the creek. At a 
meeting held by the Commissioners in Buffalo, in 1822, 
General Peter B. Porter spoke for Black Rock while 
Samuel Wilkinson presented the claims of Buffalo. 
The Commissioners finally chose Buffalo because, as 
the report says, "The waters in Lake Erie are higher 
than at Bird Island, and every inch gained in elevation 
will produce a saving in the expense of excavating." 

When the canal was finished, besides the freight 
boats, regular passenger boats, known as packets, 
drawn by three fast-trotting horses, came into use. The 

167 



THE ERIE CANAi;. 

fare was four cents a mile or fourteen dollars to Al- 
bany, and included board. A trip to New York cost 
eighteen dollars and took six days, — a great improve- 
ment on Dewitt Clinton's journey of thirty-two days. 

It must have seemed a rapid and dangerous journey 
to the settler of the times to judge by the following 
taken from a traveler's journal : 

"Commending my soul to God and asking His de- 
fense from danger, I stepped aboard the canal-boat and 
was soon flying toward Utica." 

Since 1825 the canal has been widened and deepened 
and improved in many ways ; but no one can deny that 
the little four-foot-deep "ditch" was the maker of New 
York state and the savior of the West. Let me quote 
the closing words of Cadwallader Colden in his cele- 
brated Canal Memoir : 

"American can never forget to acknowledge that we 
have built the longest canal, in the least time, with the 
least experience, for the least money, and to the greatest 
public benefit." 



168 



BIBLIOGRAPHY. 

Hennepin's Nouvelle Decotiverte, edited by R. G. 
Thwaites (1698). 

Hennepin's Lotiisiane, translated by John Shea 
(1683). 

Ketchum's Buffalo and the Senecas (1865). 

Morgan's League of the Iroquois ( 1851 ) . 

Canfield's Iroquois Legends. 

Stone's Life of Red Jacket (1866). 

Colden's Five Nations (1747). 

Seaver's Life of Mary Jemison (1856). 

Turner's Holland Purchase (1849). 

Babcock's Siege of Fort Erie (1899). 

Campbell's Life and Writings of Dewitt Clinton 

(1849)- 

The Buffalo Historical Society's Collections. 



•--^^^^ntStfei